Kinds of Bulbs

Fall-planted bulbs may be the easiest plants you'll ever grow. Each contains next spring's flower already tucked away in its heart. Planted this fall, the bulbs will produce roots as this year's garden fades away. They'll be ready to burst into bloom as soon as winter retreats -- or even earlier, in a few cases. With a little planning, it's possible to orchestrate a sequence of blooms that last for several months and overlap the early perennials for a stunning spring display. For most bulbs, the show is beautiful the first year -- and keeps getting bigger and better in following springs.

Daffodils are the first large flowers of spring with their bright colors especially welcome after winter's dreariness. Deer-resistant and long-lived, most varieties continue to multiply for years, even decades. Some are fragrant, especially the Jonquils. To extend the bloom time, try the earliest Trumpets followed by the midseason Large-cupped, then the later blooming Poeticus varieties. The Works has examples from all these groups, if creating your own mix seems too daunting at first.

But Daffodils aren't the first bulbs to appear. Especially if you live where winter seems endless, try adding at least a few handfuls of the early blooming bulbs that will remind you spring is on its way. Galanthus Snowdrops), Crocus chrysanthus, and Iris reticulata are small, but they create a big impact when nothing else is blooming in the garden. These bulbs are tiny and even several dozen can be planted in no time at all. Choose a spot you're likely to see every day, such as near your main entry or a flowerbed you can see from a kitchen window. We guarantee that a few months from now, you will be delighted you did.

These little beauties are soon followed by Chionodoxa (Glory-of-the-Snow), Anemone blanda, Crocus vernus (the larger Dutch Crocus), Erythronium, Hyacinths, Muscari (Grape Hyacinths), Scilla, and species Tulips. We have mixtures of many of these varieties, which provide maximum diversity of color and form to make your selections easy.

Overlapping this second group are various Fritillaria, Leucojum (Summer Snowflake), and Narcissus (Daffodils). The large-flowered Tulips, such as the Darwin Hybrids, tend to bloom along with Daffodils, making them fine companions. The distinctive and elegant Lily-Flowered Tulips, with their graceful stems, usually provide the swan song of spring-flowering bulbs. The Hyacinthoides (Bluebells) transition to the first flush of early summer perennials, followed by the fragrant Lilies of summer.

Have fun choosing a color theme, or exuberant mixes of hues and varieties. Even a few dozen bulbs will cheer you next spring, before your perennials are barely discernible tufts of green.