With a long-awaited improvement in the weather, it's time to return to talking about plants instead of other matters. Not that the other matters aren't important, of course--just that with a name like Bloomingwriter, one would expect that most of the discussion here would be about plants.
This time we're looking at larger flowered spring bulbs, the ones that tend to make a big splash of colour: tulips, narcissus/daffodils, and alliums. There's still plenty of time to plant bulbs, and you can still order from some companies, although the best selection is already sold. If you bought your bulbs already and it hasn't been fit to plant, remember to store them in a cool dry place but away from ripening fruit, which can kill bulb flower embryos.
You'll notice quite a few white-flowered varieties in this post, for several reasons. One, despite the fact that these plants flower after winter is past, I actually relish the sight of pure white or white-mixed flowers against a backdrop of gradually greening landscape. The White Hood daffodils in the preceding photo are one of my favourites, and multiply like crazy year after year. Likewise, the poeticus narcissus (pheasants eye) in the second photo from the top is a late blooming favourite, highly fragrant and unusual to look at.
Additionally, the good people at the International Flower Bulb Centre provide garden writers with a box of bulbs every autumn, and for two years in a row we received a host of white-flowering bulbs, including the miniature, doubled Sir Winston Churchill daffodil.
This means that I can usually remember the name of the bulb, if it was planted in the last couple of years, because I've made notes and kept them all in one place. With some of the other bulb varieties, like this pinkishsalmon and yellow bicolour daffodil, I don't remember the names, sadly.If you do, please feel free to suggest in the comments!
When growers make reference to pink daffodils, this is what they mean; usually a white or soft yellow ring of petals surrounding a cup of pinkish, salmon, or pale rose. I THINK this is Pink Charm, but I've had it from years and it suffers from LostLabel (LOLA) syndrome. It's a beauty, freshly different from the standard yellows, yellow and white or yellow and orange options.
Daffodils and alliums share something in common: both are quite deer resistant, because either the bulbs are toxic (in the case of daffodils) or highly distasteful to eat (in the case of alliums). Both are an excellent alternative, along with the fritillaria we mentioned last time, if you are plagued with deer or other animal problems. This is one of my favourite alliums, 'Caeruleum', which means blue. And it certainly is blue. Many alliums will self seed and multiply over the years, and this one does, but never invasively.
For something amusing and unusual, look for 'Hair' allium. The green tendrils emerge first, and can be quite attractive especially if planted with something that provides a strong, large textured foliage as a backdrop.
Star of Persia (Allium Christophii) is amazing for its late blooming, round balls of starry flowers, which later become excellent seedheads for later season interest.
And now, the tulips. There are so many different species, divisions, and colours of tulips, we can't draw attention to them all here. But there are a couple of things to know. One, deer love them. Two, many tulips, to bring the best bloom, like this Apricot Parrot above and the Flame Parrot at the top of this post, need to be treated as annuals and planted yearly. The main exceptions are the Triumphs, the Darwins, the Fosterianas, and the species tulips.
Species tulips tend to be small, low growing, and less showy than their flamboyant cousins, making them ideal for front of border or in rock garden plantings. This is Tulipa turkestanica, which produces clusters of small, white flowered flowers with yellow centres. Species tulips will often colonize if they're happy, although they are slower to spread than other bulbs.
This is a happy spring mixture including some parrot tulips (with the ruffled, flounced petals) some pheasants eye narcissus, and in the centre, one viridiflora tulip, possibly Deirdre, which is a green on green variety.
These are called lily-flowered tulips, easily identifiable with their vaselike shape. This variety is 'Marilyn', planted in honour of my late mother in law.
The slowly opening 'White Parrot' is a later blooming variety that looks something like a white peony as it opens.
The insides of tulips are often gorgeous, as you can see with Tulipa hageri 'Little Beauty'. This darling grows only 4-6 inches tall, with shimmering violet petals that flex open in sunlight, then close up with the onset of evening or cool weather. They work well in amongst crocus, snowdrops, and dwarf iris.
Finally, a couple more white-flowered tulips: the double white Mt. Tacoma, which looks even more like a peony with all its ruffled petals; and the clean green and white lines of 'Spring Green', a viridiflora that has been quite robust for me. My personal favourites are the viridifloras, the parrots, and the tiny, demure species.
One more thing. If you're heading out to plant bulbs this weekend, please promise me that you will plant them in groups of 5, 7, 9...not in straight rows like little soldiers? And try doing one or two colours at the most ina grouping, rather than a jumble of colours. You'll get more bang for your bulb that way.