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Fun With Spring Bulbs

October 12, 2010

There’s been a lot of excitement at Green Connection lately over spring-blooming bulbs. After an eye-opening trip to Buchart Gardens last April, we realized what a huge impact bulb plantings make in the spring when we’re so anxious to see some color. The form and color variety is astounding, and there are so many species that are hardy here in the Anchorage bowl.

It’s been cold out there and winter is right around the corner, but you can plant until the ground freezes. Listed below are some of our favorite bulbs, as well as some planting tips.

Becky’s favorites:

•    Alliums – Also known as ornamental onions. These bulbs form large globes of purple flowers, and they’ve lasted several years in her south Anchorage garden. They can be marginally hardy in colder areas of town.
•   Crocus – She uses these to form an early spring border along her flower beds. They come in a variety of colors. Most are 4 – 6” tall.

•    Parrot tulips – Becky can’t plant these fringed tulips anymore because the moose like them so much, but she said they were beautiful in her garden. They’re mid-June bloomers than come in a variety of colors. They would be great in a fenced backyard the moose can’t get into!

Gretchen’s favorites:
•    Siberian squill -  Scilla siberica. It’s one of the smaller bulbs, but blooms early and for a long time, and looks great scattered among slow-to-wake-up perennials. Deep blue/purple in color.
•    Miniature daffodils – My favorite so far is a variety called ‘Tete-a-tete.’ While only 6” tall, they produce several quarter-sized yellow and orange daffodil blossoms that are extraordinarily cute.
•  Iris reticulata -  Dwarf iris. This is another short one, around 6 – 8”, but it was the very first thing to bloom in my yard this spring. They do great in rock gardens. My favorite variety is ‘Harmony.’
•   Narcissus ‘Thalia’ – This is a larger daffodil, around 12 – 14” tall, and it is a glowing pure white. It looks very ethereal and graceful in the garden, and is fragrant. Another bonus is that narcissus are generally not very appetizing to moose.

Margie’s favorite:
•    Puschkinia – striped squill. This is a dainty little bulb that grows well in a woodland setting. Each bulb produces a cluster of blue-veined white flowers. They are very hardy here, and multiply nicely after a few years.

Monica’s favorites:
•    Darwin Series Tulips – Although they are not the showiest of tulips they will continue to provide color year after year as long as they are planting in the correct location.

Kris’s favorite:
•  Tulipa tarda – This yellow and white tulip is shorter than the hybrids most people are familiar with. We’ve seen it happily grow in several locations around town, and it will spread a little more every year, unlike most tulips, which tend to be very short lived.

Tips for planting fall bulbs:
•    Bulbs look best when grouped in clumps or drifts. They tend to look a little silly when spaced out in formal rows.
•    The more you plant, the better the show. With large bulbs like daffodils or tulips, plant in groups of at least 7 bulbs. Smaller bulbs, such as crocus or glory-of-the-snow should be planted in groups of 15 or more.
•    Check the labels for bloom time before you make your purchase. Some late-spring tulips don’t bloom until mid-June in Anchorage. If you want May blooms, look for early blooming varieties.
•    Bulb foliage usually goes dormant after the blooms are done. It’s a good idea to let the foliage die away naturally, rather than cutting it back early. This will help ensure a good show again the next year.
•    A good way to hide the unsightly declining foliage is to plant your bulbs around perennials that are slow to wake up in the spring. For example, plant glory-of-the-snow around hostas. They will be up and blooming long before the hostas show signs of life, but by the time the bulbs are done the hosta leaves are out and covering the declining glory-of-the-snow foliage.
•    Most bulbs do best with good drainage and moist soil and in sunnier locations.

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