Bulbs in the NW
As Summer fades away from us, and we face the inevitable reality of Winter, it seems an odd time to think about your Spring bulbs, but we must. Tulips, Daffodils, Crocus, Alliums and more! In order for all of those gorgeous flowers to display themselves in the Spring, they need to be ordered at the end of Summer, planted during the Fall, then they need those precious months of Winter to convert their stored energy into beauty. They require that cold, frozen darkness to “hibernate”, in a sense, and prepare for Spring. This can also be done through a process called overwintering, and just as the name would imply, it is the task of, personally, making sure your bulbs survive over the winter. This is often done by the avid bulb gardeners out there that will overwinter by digging up the tender bulbs, cleaning them off and storing them in the freezer (to prevent rot). If you already have bulbs in your yard, you may be surprised to see only a small percentage of them come back up next Spring, and for that you may have gophers, voles and squirrels to thank. They will often dig them up, and sometimes, munch on them. Another likely reason they will not return, year after year, is good old fashioned rot. In the Pacific Northwest we endure mild, yet wet, Winters. The bulbs (if not in a properly drained location) are susceptible to rotting, as we don’t often experience frozen Winters.
Around here, if you want to see annual color, it is important to select bulbs that are naturalizing. Naturalizing bulbs will adapt, as if they were native, and spread by creating new, smaller bulbs. The alternative, a perennializing bulb, may return for a few years, but not spread.
Bulb varieties are constantly updating to add new and more intricate hybrids to the catalog. Some of my personal favorites include:
Allium Christophii, a sharp and interesting globe-shaped flower that blooms around May.
Allium siculum bulgaricum, an elegant and weeping variety that will bloom around May.
Tulip Angelique, a type of tulip known colloquially as a “peony flowering” tulip, with beautiful double blooms and continued interest as the blooms open wider throughout April.
Photo credit: johnscheepers.com