Tag Archives: hyacinths

Deer-Resistant Bulbs in the Lily Family for a Spring Show

Of the fall-planted, spring-blooming bulbs, there are several in the lily family (Liliaceae) that are deer resistant. These are worth trying in your garden. If you have a severe deer issue, you may want to try deer-proof bulbs. As mentioned in my deer-proof article, I talked with Brent Heath of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester, VA, who explained the difference between deer proof and deer resistant.

“Critter-proof bulbs are poisonous to animals such as deer, rabbits, squirrels, and voles,” Brent said. “Critter-resistant bulbs have some quality that is unpleasant to the critter but if the critter is hungry enough it will eat the plant.” Because there are three types of deer-proof bulbs in the amaryllis family–daffodils, snowflakes, and snowdrops–you may want to expand your palette of colors with deer-resistant bulbs in the lily family. Try planting these in areas where you know deer do not frequent or cannot gain access. Brent also recommended using Plantskydd repellent for these bulbs. “Plantskydd is most effective,” he said. “You dip the bulb in the liquid, let it dry, and then plant in the ground. It prevents the critters from smelling the sweet smell of the bulbs so they tend to leave the bulbs alone.” Here are six deer-resistant bulbs in the lily family to plant now for a spring show.

Alliums

The drumstick shape of Allium sphaerocephalon

Alliums, also called ornamental onions, are grown for beautiful flowers, not for edible onions. “Allium bulbs have a distasteful, strong onion smell that critters find offensive,” said Brent. Usually the flowers are globe shaped and can be quite large. They bloom in late spring and early summer, preferring full sun and well-drained soil. Many of these flower heads work well as cut flowers and as dried flowers. There are globes, large and small; the drumstick shape (Allium sphaerocephalon); the firecracker shape (A. schubertii); and the large chive shape (A. unifolium), to name a few. The size of the bulb varies so planting depth varies but generally bulbs are planted 2 to 3 times their width.

Grape Hyacinths

Grape hyacinths in a container

The grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) is a small bulb but makes a big impact if planted in masses. Most people think of blue or purple grape looking flowers but there is a wide variety of colors. Some flowers are two-toned — blue and white or yellow and purple or white and purple. Some have all white flowers, or purple, or pink. Some flower structures have hairy, fuzzy flowers, instead of the common, grape-like clusters. Grape hyacinth bulbs naturalize well, can be grown in full or partial sun or dapple shade, and are great for planting under deciduous trees. Because of their small size, they do well in containers for forcing for an early indoor bloom. They bloom in March and April.

Hyacinths

“Hyacinth bulbs have scales that are a skin irritant so wear gloves when handling them,” recommended Brent. “This also is an irritant to critters.” Hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis) are less than a foot tall and flower colors come in ranges of pinks, yellow, blues, and whites. The actual flower shape does not vary much with cultivars. The bulbs last for a long time in the garden and over the years, the florets become looser, with more space between them instead of a tight cluster. Hyacinths prefer well-drained soil and full sun. They are very fragrant which is not as noticeable outside but can overpower a room if cut for a vase inside. Because of their small size, they do well in containers for forcing for an early indoor bloom. They bloom in March and April.

Spanish Bluebells

“Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) are highly critter resistant,” said Brent. These have about the same height and color palette as hyacinths but the florets are tubular bells. They can tolerate shade, are often found in woodland areas, but also can be grown in sun. They naturalize well and can be used as a cut flower. They do not have such an overpowering scent like hyacinths.

Star flowers

Star Flowers

Star flowers (Ipheion uniflorum) have a nice fragrance but are too small for cutting and the foliage reeks of garlic. “When crushed, the star flower leaves smell like garlic so the plant is critter resistant,” said Brent. The flowers have six petals in pale blue, lavender, pink, or white, resembling a star. The plant is about 6 inches tall with thin, grass like foliage so it is best to grown them in a group or drift. As long as the soil is well drained, they have a wide range of soil tolerance and can be grown in full sun to part shade. They bloom in April and naturalize well.

Glory of the Snow

Glory of the snow (Chionodoxa forbesii) also has star-shaped flowers but they are more open and each flower is lavender with a white center. Again, a small, 6-inch plant so they are not used for cutting. They work well in a group or drift and naturalize easily. Glory of the snow blooms in March, sometimes with snow on the ground, and in April. They need well-drained soil and full sun to part shade.

Glory of the snow in a drift

All of these bulbs should be available to purchase now at your local independent garden center or order online through one of these bulb companies.

All photos courtesy of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Forcing Hyacinths!

Hyacinth Blue Pearl, first flush of flowers

Hyacinth Blue Pearl, first flush of flowers

For Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, the 15th of each month, check out my forced hyacinths. It is easy to force hyacinths to bloom early indoors, just pop bulb into paper bag, put in fridge in the fall, weeks later, take bulb out and plant in soil or water. Last year, on November 13 I put three Blue Pearls in a brown paper lunch bag and put them in the fridge. I wrote a note to pull them out in 10 weeks but really forgot about them and pulled them out after 11 weeks on February 2. I put mine in my three forcing vases, which are pinched vases that allow the bulbs to sit above the water. I have these forcing vases for so many years I don’t know where they came from but you can buy them at large independent garden centers, through online garden supply stores, or sometimes as a boxed combo of bulb and vase. It is not necessary to use these; you can place the bulb on a layer of pebbles or marbles in a wide-mouthed jar, such as a jam or Mason jar; or you can put them in a container of soil.

Hyacinth Blue Pearl in Forcing Vases

Hyacinth Blue Pearl in forcing vases

My Blue Pearls sat in a sunny windowsill in the office and on February 24, within 3 weeks, they were in full bloom — one month before they would have bloomed if they been out in the garden. Colleagues admired the beautiful flowers in my office and could not help commenting on the strong perfume. Three bulbs create such a sweet fragrance they are almost pungent. I cut the flowers and gave each one to a friend, as a cut flower in a vase. My bulbs continued to send up flower stalks for a second flush of flowers in the beginning of March. I cut those and now have a third flush of flowers. These are not as full and large as the first flush but that is okay because the scent is not as strong either. Next time, maybe one hyacinth in the office will suffice.

Hyacinth Blue Pearl, second flush of flowers

Hyacinth Blue Pearl, second flush of flowers

Try buying hyacinth bulbs in the fall to force them to bloom early inside. Compared to other bulbs, hyacinth bulbs are cheap, less than two dollars for high quality, individual bulbs or six or seven dollars for a package of three. From my bulbs, I got three flushes of flowers over a month’s time plus I will be able to plant them in my garden in April for flowers next spring. Hyacinths are very reliable here in Virginia; squirrels and deer do not bother them and they continue to flower year after year. Have you forced hyacinths before and if so, which type?

Hyacinths: Easy, Indoor Winter Blooms

November2014hyacinthamaryllis 121

Box of hyacinth bulb/vase, Merrifield Garden Center

November2014hyacinthamaryllis 159

Assortment of single bulbs at Merrifield Garden Center

Forcing hyacinths to bloom indoors is easy. Although hyacinths need a chilling period, keeping them in a paper bag in the fridge for 8 to 10 weeks will achieve this effect.  Make sure you label the bag so your family does not mistake them for onions. When the chilling period is over, put the bulbs in glass forcing vases or wide-mouth jars with pebbles so the roots are in water and the bulbs are not. Place in indirect light. As they grow, give more light, but avoid direct sun. After flowering, plant the bulbs in the garden in late spring/early summer for flowers in the garden next spring.  Hyacinths are deer resistant and will come back in the garden year after year in our area. Compared to other bulbs, hyacinth bulbs are cheap, less than two dollars for high quality, individual bulbs or six or seven dollars for a package of three. Traditionally, hyacinth vases or forcing vases are used to hold the bulbs.  These are pinched vases that allow the bulbs to sit above the water. I have had mine for so many years I don’t know where they came from but you can buy them at large independent garden centers, through online garden supply stores, or sometimes as a boxed combo of bulb and vase. It is not necessary to use these; you can place the bulb on a layer of pebbles or marbles in a wide-mouthed jar, like a jam or Mason jar.

my forcing vases

my forcing vases

Mine will go into the fridge tonight and 10 weeks later, on January 22, (mark it on the calendar) I will take place them in the forcing vases. I look forward to enjoying the beauty and fragrance for weeks, way before my garden hyacinths bloom outside!