Magazine article Sunset

Bulbs That Burst with Spring Beauty

Magazine article Sunset

Bulbs That Burst with Spring Beauty

Article excerpt

Seven reliable bloomers for fall planting

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. …

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