September 26, 2010 in Features

Want to ensure a spring bloom? Work starts now

By The Spokesman-Review
Susan Mulvihill photo

Tulips are always a delightful sight in the spring. This one is a “New Design” Triumph tulip.
(Full-size photo)

Bulb sources

In addition to local garden centers, bulbs can also be purchased from mail-order companies including:

Dutch Gardens: www.dutch, (800) 944-2250

John Scheepers Inc.: www.john, (860) 567-0838

Royal Dutch:, (309) 663-2350

It’s hard to believe that fall is here already. But before you hang up your trowel for the season, there’s an item that should be on your to-do list.

This is an ideal time to plant bulbs so you will have something bright and colorful to look forward to next spring.

At my house, the bulb catalogs have been arriving in the mail for the past couple of months. It’s always risky for me to look through them because I know they will have amazing new bulbs that are just meant for my garden.

Let’s look at the best types to grow in this region:

Daffodils: These bulbs rank high on my list because deer and gophers rarely eat them, and they are very hardy and will produce additional bulbs without sacrificing flower size.

I primarily grow ‘Ice Follies,’ which have yellow cups that change to white, and ‘Salome’ with apricot-colored cups because they are very prolific and reliable.

‘Tete a Tete’ daffodils are multi-stemmed miniatures that look great in the front of perennial borders. And let’s not forget the old classic, ‘King Alfred,’ which is available in just about every home and garden center.

Other cool ones include ‘Apricot Whirl,’ with cream-colored petals and apricot-colored ruffled butterfly cups; ‘Decoy,’ with its deep pinkish-red cups; and ‘Galactic Star,’ which has bright yellow petals and white cups.

Tulips: Tulips come in so many beautiful colors and types that it’s easy to overlook the fact that they are a favorite of deer and gophers and their flower size tends to diminish over the years.

They do look stunning in any bed, however, and should be grown in clusters – instead of individually – to have the most impact.

Some of my favorites are ‘Blushing Lady,’ with its contrasting yellow and pink petals, ‘Apricot Beauty,’ and ‘Angelique’ double tulips with their soft pink petals and delightful fragrance.

Newer varieties that have caught my eye include ‘Silver Parrot,’ with ruffled pink and cream-colored petals; ‘Ice Cream,’ which looks like a scoop of vanilla ice cream resting in a pink dish; and ‘Albert Heijn,’ with its stunning combination of magenta and hot-pink petals.

Specialty bulbs: Some of the most hardy and prolific bulbs include the ever-popular grape hyacinths, the dainty Glory-of-the-Snow (Chionodoxa forbesii), crocuses and snowdrops. All bloom in very early spring so they provide some color just when a gardener needs it most.

Grape hyacinths come in blue, white or pink. Glory-of-the-Snow is available in shades of blue and pink. Crocuses are available in yellow, white, purple, cream and purple stripes.

Other interesting specialty bulbs include Guinea hen flowers (Fritillaria meleagris), the fragrant full-sized hyacinths, wood hyacinths (Hyacinthoides hispanica), Spanish Bluebells, dwarf iris and alliums in all shapes, colors and sizes.

The great thing about these specialty bulbs is that they tend to naturalize, or spread, very easily, which really makes a statement in the landscape.

No matter which type of bulbs you plant, be sure to plant them at the recommended depth and spacing to get the best results. The rule of thumb for proper depth is two to three times the height of the bulb.

To get the bulbs off to the best possible start, sprinkle a little bulb fertilizer into the planting hole first, then add a little soil before placing the bulb into the bottom of the hole.

If you have gopher problems, bulbs can be planted in a wire basket underground. Spray deer repellent on tulip foliage and buds to keep critters from snacking on them.

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via e-mail at Visit her blog at for more gardening information and tips.

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