Northern Shade Gardening

New Bulbs for Spring Dreams

Saturday, October 18, 2008 Category: Bulbs
Scilla siberica (squills) on garden glove

Scilla siberica (squills) on garden glove

Planting bulbs in the Autumn gives you a chance to dream, and connects the garden to the next flowering season.  After a long, cold winter, the spring flowers are the most anticipated. When the snow is almost melted, I check the ground a couple of times a day for signs of green life. When the Puschkinia (striped squill) first showed a bud last spring, I was delighted with its beauty, and its stand against the snow and cold. I took dozens of photos of the first brave bloom, even though it was soon halted by a fresh snow storm.

Here are some of the new bulbs I am planting in the garden this fall. They are the small, early spring bloomers. One advantage to the small bulbs is that their foliage is smaller too, so it is easier to hide after blooming. The leaves of these bulbs die back relatively quickly. The little bulbs look best planted close to the door or walkway where they can be viewed up close, or in large patches, that blaze from a distance. I planted 380 bulbs, which sounds like a lot, but with these small bulbs, it’s not at all. They disappear into the garden quickly.

I’m still amazed by how these small brown lumps that I bury will burst forth in spring, transformed into beautiful flowers. The next photo was taken in May this year.

Puschkinia scilloides 'Libanotica' (striped squill) spring bulb

Puschkinia scilloides (striped squills)

I added some more bulbs of my old favourites, including Puschkinia scilloides ‘‘Libanotica’ (striped squills). Since these are the very first blooms in the garden, I planted some additional groups, to bring even more cheer. A dozen or more little bells hang down the flower stalks for each bulb. Puschkinia flowers are white with light blue stripes, and make a good show in a group.

I’m adding more Muscari ‘Blue Spike’ (grape hyacinth) too, which is another bulb I admire. This type of grape hyacinth is extra showy because its flowers are more open, giving it a frilly appearance. The colour is more noticeable, so the blooms have more of an impact.

Scilla siberica (squill) spring bulb fall planting

Scilla siberica (squill) spring bulb fall planting

This photo above is of my Scilla from this spring. I’ve added more of the Scilla Siberica (squills) in a large group. These are a very pretty bright blue bulb of early spring .

I also picked up some new varieties of some spring bulbs I already have. The Muscari azureum (grape hyacinth) is a pretty, light blue muscari. It also has the open petals like ‘Blue Spike’.  I can’t wait to see it blooming in the garden to compare it to the other Muscari.

I bought another variation on a treasured bulb,  Chionodoxa ‘Alba’ (white glory of the snow). I have the bluish purple glory of the snow, which are charming. The Chionodoxa usually flower right after the Puschkinia, their bloom time overlapping for a short while. These flowers face upwards, so they are easy to admire.

I wanted to plant yellow and purple crocus under the lilac tree, between the geranium plants. I have a lot of blue or white bulbs in other parts of the garden, and I thought this would make a nice combination of spring colours. They would bloom before the geraniums got too big, and then the geranium leaves would hide the bulb foliage after the blooms have finished. I got the idea for the planting after everything else had been planted, so it was a little late to find all the bulbs. In zone 3 most of the bulbs have already been planted, so I had to search. I finally found a few Crocus vernus ‘Remembrance’ in a purple colour, but no yellow crocus. My idea of a hundred purple crocus behind a group of a hundred yellow crocus has now been reduced to a group of 30 purple crocus only. Next year I’ll finish the planting.

I bought some Galanthus elwesii (snowdrops), despite the fact that not one of the Galanthus I planted last year came up. Normally, when a plant avoids my garden that completely, I would give up.  However I kept wondering if they were just old bulbs, or if a discriminating squirrel ate every one, so I bought some more this year. As I was planting another type of bulb in the old Galanthus spot, I think I dug some snowdrops up. Perhaps the bulbs are still there and will come up next spring.

After the desert of winter, spring bulbs are an oasis of beauty. Are you planting bulbs for spring? Do you plant more of your old favourites, new varieties of familiar bulbs, or try all new bulbs?

30 Responses to “New Bulbs for Spring Dreams” »

  1. Racquel :
    October 18, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Great choices for next spring. I planted more Alliums this year, and a few new varieties (to me) like Foxtail Lillies and Bi-color Muscari and some different Daffodils like Thalia. Spring will be here before we know it and I am excited about the prospect of another new season in the garden with new things to admire.

  2. easygardener :
    October 18, 2008 at 10:13 am

    I’ve just planted some Scilla siberica too and I’m trying to establish another clump of Fritillaria meleagris.
    I’ve had some crocus disappear completely after planting. I wonder sometimes – is it an enterprising squirrel or if I simply dreamt the whole planting episode?

  3. Joy :
    October 18, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Hi Northern Shade .. I always have to plant a little something in the Spring bulb direction each Autumn .. it just wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t ? Only a little something since I’m running out of room mind you !
    Casa Blanca white irises .. not the bearded ones .. the “wild” structure ones .. Dutch style .. I love hits of white .. these are in the raised bed with the roses so the sun hits there very well .. that is what I am looking froward to already in the Spring !
    Your choices are very nice too !
    Joy
    PS .. I have to find another Jack Frost Brunnera .. I just love that one : )

  4. Shauna :
    October 18, 2008 at 11:38 am

    I’m so glad you are giving the Galanthus another go. What bulb inspirations you are giving me. Your idea of a hundred purple crocus behind a group of a hundred yellow is a lovely vision and 30 is a good start.

  5. irena :
    October 18, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    spring is all about daffodils for me. I have about 90 bulbs sitting on the kitchen table waiting to be planted! sounds like your spring display will be fabulous.
    irena

  6. gail :
    October 18, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    Scilla siberica is a sweet little flower and was one of the first Little Bulbs I ever planted over 20 yrs ago…it or it’s offspring still shows up each spring. Tiny beauties. Thank you for asking! I just planted alliums, Crocus sativus and crocus vernus ‘VanGuard’ , muscari, pink tulips and orienpet lilies. Sounds like a lot but it was small quantities! Gail

  7. Kim :
    October 19, 2008 at 9:51 am

    Yes, I planted bulbs – mostly alliums, but some daffodils, specie tulips, camassia and grape hyacinth. Next year, when I have pictures of the bulbs blooming and therefore won’t plant on top of some already existing, I’ll plant more. I had Scilla at my previous house/garden, and I want some here. I really liked your comment about how the brown lumps are transformed into spring’s flowers. Great post.

  8. Kathleen :
    October 19, 2008 at 10:17 am

    I planted some of the same bulbs as you but also went a little crazy with Alliums (since my garden was sadly lacking) and lycoris (first time for me). I also added orange foxtail lilies and I can’t wait to see if they bloom. I agree that adding bulbs in fall gives us something to look forward to ~ it will be fun to see all the results of our fall planting next spring.

  9. Chloe :
    October 19, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    Really lovely photos – and inspiring writing too! There is something so optimistic about the act of planting bulbs.

    Here in Southern California most of the standard bulbs don’t fare very well, but I am eager to explore some of the South African varieties.

    Chloe M.

  10. Northern Shade :
    October 19, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    Racquel, I will have to check what the Thalia daffodil looks like. The bicolor Muscari sound interesting. They might look nice in between the light blue and dark blue Muscari. For all of the brown leaves on the ground, I’m excited about spring too.

    Easygardener, I saw some Fritillaria, but they were a mixed package. I would like to try some sometime. The Scilla siberica are such a pretty bright blue.
    I feel bad for suspecting the squirrel of being a Galanthus eater. I never caught him in the act, and there did seem to be some bulbs where I had planted the Galanthus last year. I’ll be interested to see if it’s possible for them to come up the following year. It’s hard to resist fall planting.

    Joy, the Casa Blanca white irises sound good. I uses to have the early Spring dwarf Iris Cantab and Iris reticulata at my old house. They were both lovely, and a treat in Spring.

  11. Northern Shade :
    October 19, 2008 at 11:16 pm

    Shauna, I’ve been keeping my eye open, to see if I can find any more crocus, but now that I’ve got the idea, I’ll just look earlier next year.
    I’ve planted the new Galanthus in a different spot. Maybe I’ll be more lucky this time, or it will be more to their liking.

    Irena, daffodil are such a classic spring plant, and the yellow is so cheery. Will you plant them all as one group?

    Gail, how wonderful to have the same patch of Scilla for 20 years. You have to love a bulb that is so faithful. Did you plant the muscari with the pink tulips? They would look very nice if they bloomed at the same time. It’s tricky to get bulbs to bloom together when they each have a shorter window.

  12. Northern Shade :
    October 19, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    Kim, thank you. That is the tricky part with bulbs. Once their foliage disappears, it’s hard to be precise about where they were when you add the new fall plantings. Keeping the photos is a big help. It’s also tricky if they are planted with perennials and you rearrange the bed. The you have spring beauty popping up all over the place. It sounds like you will have a lot of beauty popping up. The alliums make a dramatic show.

    Kathleen, the Lycoris don’t grow here, but I’ve seen photos on gardening blogs and they look pretty. I haven’t tried allium, but they look striking in pictures. When things start to slow down in the fall, it’s easy to be exuberant about the next seasons plantings. A number of allium should look eye catching.

    Chloe, thanks. Which South African ones are you looking at? I’m picturing hot colours to match your climate.

  13. Birgitta :
    October 20, 2008 at 6:23 am

    I do as you. Every day when the snow has gone I check the ground. Looking for green points and long for snowdrops. They are for me number one among the springbulbs.
    Scilla siberica has a lovely blue color
    Fore some weeks ago I planted Iris reticulata, Erythronium ‘Pagoda’ and Fritillaria meleagris.
    Birgitta

  14. Northern Shade :
    October 20, 2008 at 7:48 am

    Birgitta, I see you have planted a number of the small bulbs too.

    I will look forward to the snowdrops. Now I wonder if they will flower before the Puschkinia. They are in a sunnier area too. I wonder how early my first flower will be next year.

  15. Marnie :
    October 20, 2008 at 8:47 am

    Glad you mentioned that subject. I need to pick up some more daffodils and maybe I’ll see something else that looks good.
    Marine

  16. Northern Shade :
    October 20, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Marnie, I do a cross between planning for certain bulbs, and seeing what looks good too. I should probably try ordering sometime, but I do like picking my own packages, because I like to see what condition and size the bulbs are too.

  17. Barbarapc :
    October 21, 2008 at 7:25 am

    The galanthus may have to be planted much earlier – was picking up my bulb order at Tradewinds yesterday & owner said to someone on the phone “I won’t even bother selling you the galanthus, even if I had some – it’s just too late” I’ve tried several times as well – some very expensive doubles – and zip nada nothing. I’m glad to read that so many little bulbs are cherished members of your garden. They really make my heart sing when I see them start to grow as the snow recedes!

  18. Northern Shade :
    October 21, 2008 at 7:52 am

    Barbarapc, thanks for the tip about Galanthus planting. If these don’t emerge in spring, perhaps I’ll try an earlier planting next year. I’m especially impressed by some of the large swaths of naturalized snowdrops that I’ve seen in UK photos.
    If I plant any more crocus this year, I will have to plant them close together, I’m not sure of the survival ratio of even hardier bulbs this late in fall now.

  19. ChrisND :
    October 21, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    You have planned much better than I did for the Spring bulbs. They really do take the winter edge off…we did put in some bulbs crocus and daffodils. Having a few groups in key areas, like our south side, should make the spring more exciting.

    I will have to keep an eye on your bulbs over this next season to get some good ideas. It is fun to try to plan wonderful displays, but as you said the numbers you need can be misleading.

  20. Sowing The Seeds :
    October 22, 2008 at 6:07 am

    Thankyou for sharing your beautiful pics. I love the striped Scilla. Beautiful. I havent seen them here before..I always love to plant what we call ‘Naked Ladies’ or Amaryllis. Lots of daffodils and freesias under the decidious trees too.

  21. Northern Shade :
    October 22, 2008 at 8:10 am

    ChrisND, the south side would be great for getting some extra early blooms in spring. I’m always pleased by how well some of the little bulbs shrug off the odd snowfall, when they come up early. I guess having some mountain heritage prepares them to tough it out.

    Some of the bulb displays I’ve most admired, are where a whole slope is planted with a swath of Galanthus, Scilla or crocus, and they have naturalized. They look awesome in the spring.

  22. Northern Shade :
    October 22, 2008 at 8:17 am

    Sowing The Seeds, I transferred your comment info for you.
    It’s great that bulbs can do so well under deciduous trees, blooming and photosynthesizing before the leaves fill in. You can pack in more beauty per square foot of garden.

  23. Linda :
    October 22, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    You planted 380 bulbs!! Are your hands killing you? We have such tough clay soil that planting 50 wears me out. I can’t wait to see pictures of these. When do you expect them to bloom? I know your blooms may be somewhat later than here in Texas. We’ll start seeing bulbs come up (depending on our winter) end of February on into spring. I’m already looking forward to spring–and it’s just now fall here! :)

  24. Northern Shade :
    October 22, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    Linda, I am anxious for spring too, but I will have to wait a little longer than you. I’m often dreaming about the next season as well. My first bulbs usually appear around the end of April, with the main flush coming in May.
    I’m fortunate that my soil is loamy and workable, and also don’t have rocks in the soil. I don’t need a pickaxe for digging, like some bloggers describe.

  25. The Intercontinental Gardener :
    October 23, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Bulbs are the most incredible little things, containing all that life in such a small and hardy package. Puschkinias are one of my favourites. I actually “inherited” them, somebody must have planted them in my garden years and years ago and now thousands of them come up in the lawn during April-May. They smell beautifully, their scent is a mixture of honey and violets.

  26. Northern Shade :
    October 23, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    The Intercontinental Gardener, how lucky you are to have a large planting of the Puschkinia already naturalized. I haven’t noticed as strong a scent with mine, but I bet the large swath would intensify the fragrance. Mine will have to work a little longer to develop as large a patch.
    The delicate look of many small bulbs belies their actual sturdiness.

  27. kerri :
    October 25, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    You’ve been busy! I know the bulbs are small, but it still sounds like a lot of them to me. Your spring garden should be very beautiful. I love all the little spring flowers, especially the blues.

  28. Northern Shade :
    October 25, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    Kerri, the blue bulbs are my favourite ones too. I would love to have large patches of naturalized bulbs, but I haven’t worked up to that scale yet.

  29. Krys :
    October 26, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    I love the feelings of anticipation as spring draws near after I plant the fall bulbs. It’s always a thrill to see little shoots pop out of the near-frozen earth as soon as the snow melts, and sometimes even before it’s all gone.

    This year, in addition to the “old favourites”, I’ve planted HERMODACTYLUS TUBEROSA from Dominion Seeds in Ontario. I hope the squirrels don’t get them!

    Your idea of the large cluster of purple crocuses next to another of yellow crocuses sounds wonderful. Even 30 will be spectacular! I’ll look forward to seeing photos in the spring.

    /krys

  30. Northern Shade :
    October 26, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Krys, I’m practically skipping past winter to spring as I read your comment. We had our first few flakes of snow yesterday. They were very tentative, disappearing as they hit the ground, but definitely frozen white stuff.
    Your new bulbs should look good in your wild garden, provided they elude those stealth squirrels. It’s particularly fun to have something new to look forward to.

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