Between the Rows: It’s time to plant daffodils, alliums and tulips

  • The poeticus daffodil is simple, plain and elegant. For the Recorder/Pat Leuchtman

  • Camassia bloom in late spring to early summer, with 3-foot spikes of starry flowers in shades of white, blue and purple. Courtesy photo/American Meadows

  • Allium christophii blooms in early summer, with amethyst florets that have a metallic sheen. For the Recorder/Pat Leuchtman

  • Tulips offer a wide range of color, from icy white like the Clearwater, to the nearly black fringed Vincent van Gogh. For the Recorder/Pat Leuchtman

  • Tulips offer a wide range of color, from icy white like the Clearwater, to the nearly black fringed Vincent van Gogh. For the Recorder/Pat Leuchtman

  • LEUCHTMAN

For the Recorder
Published: 9/7/2018 12:31:42 PM

There is a world of spring blooming bulbs to plant in the fall. Daffodils immediately come to mind, but we don’t often think about the various forms and colors these flowers take.

Think of the choices; you can plant large cup daffodils in pale shades of lemon or pure white, but with frilled cups in shades of pink or orange. Precocious is a particularly showy daffodil with icy white petals and a coral pink, curly flat cup that blooms in mid-spring.

If the large cup division is too flashy for your taste, you can first look at the small cup daffodils. They can surprise with a brilliant orange cup like Barrett Browning that blooms in early to mid-spring. Or you can choose Dallas and enjoy white serenity with a small, frilly white cup that blooms late.

Double daffodils can go from the heirloom Albus plenus odoratus, so ruffly white that it almost looks and smells like a gardenia and blooms in late spring. Another late bloomer is Delnashaugh — white with large, overlapping petals surrounding apricot-pink inner segments.

There is also a large family of miniature daffodils, some of which are only 3 inches tall. Fragrant yellow Tiny Bubbles is 4 inches tall with recurved petals, and blooms in mid-spring. Rip Van Winkle is almost out of the miniature category because it can grow between 5 to 8 inches. It looks like exploding yellow fireworks and blooms in early to mid-spring.

In the past, I grew the poeticus daffodil, which is a very old daff. I liked it because it was a heritage variety, but also because it was just so simple, plain and elegant. At the same time, I also love the Van Sion daffodil, which was growing on our Heath property when we moved there. It was not plain or elegant, but I liked the wild explosion of golden petals that sometimes included many green petals. A friend of mine thought it was the ugliest daffodil ever, but I disagreed.

A very different and much less common spring blooming bulb is camassia, a member of the lily family. I have not grown camassia, but the Brent and Becky catalog says it “tolerates damp meadows and pond edges as well as heavy clay soil.” I might have to give it a try.

Camassia bloom in late spring to early summer, with 3-foot spikes of starry flowers in shades of white, blue and purple. Camassia attracts pollinators, but is deer and squirrel resistant. It likes sun, but can take some shade.

One white variety, C. leichtlinii “Sacajawea” is so named because Sacajawea helped feed Meriwether Lewis and William Clark this “quamash” bulb that kept them alive when on the Weippe Prairie in Idaho. This was an important food for the Native Americans, but Lewis said it did his stomach little good.

When we look at large purple alliums, it is hard to remember these grow from bulbs. The different varieties, from 6 inches tall to 3 feet or more, bloom over a long season and help bridge the spring bloomers to the summer bloomers. They need sun and a well-drained, fertile soil.

The purple Globemaster allium always gets a lot of attention. The flower head has dense florets and can be 1-foot across on a 3-foot stem! Even though these alliums are large, they should be planted in groups to make a real statement. Globemaster will bloom from late May into June.

White Giant and Allium christophii, also known as Stars of Persia, are of similar size, but their blossoms consist of loosely arranged florets. Allium christophii blooms in early summer. Its amethyst florets have a lovely metallic sheen on a 2-foot stem. White Giant blooms in late spring on a nearly 4-foot stem.

I have grown the unique A. siculum bugaricum with its numerous and graceful pendulous florets in shades of green, purple and white on 32-inch stems.

Petite Jeanine has airy and sunny yellow blossoms that bloom in early summer on 12-inch stems. Allium flavum has pendulous lemon-yellow flowers on 10-inch stems. Allium oreophilum is only 6 inches tall, but the loosely arranged pink florets work well, as do other small alliums, at the front of the border or in rock gardens.

Perhaps it is the tulip that can give us the widest range of color, from icy white like the Clearwater, to the nearly black fringed Vincent van Gogh. In the past, I rarely planted tulips because they are not dependable repeaters. However, in the limited sunny (relatively speaking) and rich soil spot that is my tree strip garden, I think a few tulips would brighten things up in May. I am willing to make a small investment.

For this experiment, I want something bright and flashy like Flaming Parrot — all red, yellow and white. Orca, a brilliant ruffled orange, would really wake me up in early spring. Foxy Foxtrot with ruffled shades of apricot, yellow, peach and orange is also tempting.

Bulbs give us the ability to enter spring with calm elegance or a brilliant splash. Our bulbs can surprise us all at once or they can amaze us with brilliance over a long season.

The options are endless and illustrated catalogs like Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, John Scheepers, Old House Gardens, Odyssey Bulbs and others will offer you a world of spring color.

Pat Leuchtman has been writing and gardening since 1980. Readers can leave comments at her website: www.commonweeder.com.




Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906

 

Copyright © 2019 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy