Bulbs that burst with spring beauty.
Flowering bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths produce blooms in the colors, shapes, and scents that mean spring to us. You can enrich your garden with their floral beauty and fragrance next spring by planting the right bulbs this fall. Which ones will do best in your garden? Our guide lists seven fall-planted bulbs that are proven performers in Western gardens.
At Sunset, we've grown each of these bulbs throughout several decades in our gardens in Menlo Park, California, and more recently, we've tried out a number of new varieties. This report reflects not only our own experiences but also those of home gardeners around the West.
Most of the bulbs we describe grow in all Sunset climate zones. Many of them can be grown successfully in containers. Several, including daffodils, naturalize well in all Western climates, establishing themselves in the garden to deliver repeat bloom year after year (see page 68 for planting tips). Tuberous-rooted kinds such as ranunculus will not naturalize, but their tubers can be dug up after bloom and stored for replanting next fall. Still other bulbs, such as those of Dutch hyacinths and hybrid tulips, are bred to produce their best bloom in a single season.
Once you decide what to plant, buy bulbs as soon as you can. If you shop at a nursery, choose firm bulbs that show no signs of sprouting or decay. You can also shop by catalog; for several mail-order bulb sources, see page 96.
ANEMONE (windflower). Tubers, all zones. Poppy-flowered anemone (A. coronaria), shown at right, is spectacular in the spring border. Blooms in vivid shades of pink, red, violet, blue, and white are 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches across and borne on 6- to 18-inch stems. They make fine cut flowers. Note: All anemone plant parts are poisonous.
Planting tips. Partial shade. Set tubers (scarred top up) 1 to 2 inches deep, 8 to 12 inches apart, in rich, light, well-drained soil. In mild-winter areas, plant in October and November; in cold-winter areas, wait until spring. Interplant anemones among other long-stemmed flowers such as Iceland poppies and ranunculus. Replant new tubers each fall; they seldom do as well the second year.
DAFFODIL (Narcissus). Bulbs, all zones. What would spring be without these most versatile bulbs? They are hardy in cold and hot climates, they naturalize well and look great in pots, they make long-lasting cut flowers - and gophers won't eat them. Narcissus are classified into 11 different forms, including familiar trumpet daffodils, large- and small-cupped types, and double daffodils. Most kinds grow from 1 to 2 feet high. Jonquilla and Tazetta hybrids have very fragrant flowers.
Planting tips. Sun; light shade for late-flowering kinds. Set bulbs of large-flowered kinds 4 to 6 inches deep, small-flowered kinds 3 to 4 inches deep; space both kinds 4 to 6 inches apart.
DUTCH IRIS. Bulbs, all zones except as noted. Prized by florists as cut flowers, beardless Dutch irises (right) come in shades of purple, blue, mauve, rich brown, orange, yellow, and white, and as bicolors. The 3- to 4-inch-wide blooms poise gracefully on stems 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall. They are a good choice for containers (plant five bulbs in a 5-or 6-inch pot). Naturalizing results are mixed: In the mildest parts of Southern California, bulbs may not make it past their first year. The farther north you go, the better they naturalize - as long as the ground doesn't freeze down to bulb level. The widely sold 'Wedgwood' variety is not hardy in zones 1, 2, and 3.
Planting tips. Full sun. Set bulbs 4 inches deep, 3 to 4 inches apart. Plant in October and November. In cold-winter areas, mulch beds to protect bulbs from freezing.
FREESIA. Corms, zones 8, 9, 12-24. Fragrant flowers come in all colors. The 2-inch-long tubular blooms form in a row on spikes that spring from wispy 1- to 1 1/2-foot-tall stems. Try 'Safari' (yellow flowers), 'Snowdon' (double white), Tecolote red, and Tecolote yellow. Freesia naturalizes reliably only in mild-winter areas of Arizona and California; flowers are smaller the second year.
Planting tips. Sun or filtered shade. Set corms (pointed ends up) 2 inches deep, 2 inches apart, in well-drained soil. Interplant freesias among sturdy-stemmed perennials or annuals such as candytuft: they will help prop up the freesias' floppy flower stalks.
HYACINTH. Bulbs, all zones. Dutch hyacinth (bottom left) bears fluffy spikes of fragrant flowers in shades of blue, purple, red, pink, buff, and white. The plants look best when massed or grouped in beds or grown in pots. Dutch hyacinth does not usually naturalize well.
Planting tips. Sun or filtered shade. Set larger bulbs 6 inches deep, smaller ones 4 inches deep, spaced 6 to 8 inches apart. In mild climates of Arizona and California, it's best to prechill hyacinth bulbs in the refrigerator for six weeks before planting outdoors between early November and mid-January. In cold-winter climates, plant bulbs from late September to mid-October.
RANUNCULUS. Tubers, all zones. Peonylike flowers come in vibrant shades of red, pink, gold, buttery yellow, and white. Blooms 3 to 5 inches across are borne on stems 8 to 18 inches or taller that rise above fernlike foliage. Tecolote hybrids are the most widely sold. Plant tubers in borders among Iceland poppies and pansies. Ranunculus does not naturalize.
Planting tips. Full sun. Set tubers (prongs down) 2 inches deep in light soil (1/2 to 1 inch deep in heavy soil), 6 to 8 inches apart. Planting time varies by climate: October in the low desert, November in mild-winter areas, November or mid-February in western Washington and Oregon. In coldest-winter areas, start tubers in pots, then set plants outdoors after the last frost. After flowers fade and foliage dries, pull plants, cut off the tops, and store tubers in a dry, cool place until planting time.
TULIP. Bulbs, all zones. Hybrid tulips come in a rainbow of colors and many flower forms, from lily-flowered to parrot types. In the landscape, group tulips by color and interplant bulbs in swaths among annuals or perennials. Hybrids do not naturalize well. They are ideal for pots.
Species, or wild, tulips naturalize well. Some outstanding species to try in mild-winter climates are Tulipa bakeri 'Lilac Wonder' (rose-lilac flowers) and T. saxatilis (fragrant pale lilac flowers with yellow bases).
Planting tips. Sun during bloom. In rich, well-drained soil, set bulbs 2 1/2 times as deep as they are wide, spaced 4 to 8 inches apart depending on the eventual size of the plant. In mild-winter areas of Arizona and California, chill bulbs for six weeks in the refrigerator, then plant outdoors between early November and mid-January. After flowers fade, pull the bulbs and discard them like spent annuals. Plant new bulbs each fall.
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|Title Annotation:||flowering bulbs|
|Author:||Bushnell, Dick; Swezey, Lauren Bonar|
|Date:||Sep 22, 1996|
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