Greenhouse Canada

Tulips aren’t the only fall bulbs; check out hyacinths, lilies, alliums

October 14, 2008  By The Canadian Press

Oct. 14, 2008 – If it's flower bulbs you want for that new cutting garden, then there's more than tulips from which to choose.

If it's flower bulbs you want for that new cutting garden, then there's more than tulips from which to choose.

are bulbs that convey fragrance and others that provide ground cover,
bulbs that blossom when snow's on the ground and others that bloom into
summer. And the good thing is that spring-flowering bulbs require
minimal care once they're established.


Some even "naturalize"
after a year or two, or self-propagate if they're in a place they like,
adding still more colour as the seasons come and go.

Here are
some lesser known bulb varieties, bulbs new to the market, rare
heirloom bulbs or bulbs that look promising for certain special

-"Alliums are fabulous," said Jo-Anne van den
Berg-Ohms, president of Van Engelen Inc., a wholesale flower bulb
company in Bantam, Conn. "They have huge globes, primarily purple that
look like hovering balloons." Try the "Schubertii" (a small,
low-growing varietal with rose-purple florets), "Gladiator" (large,
growing to 60 cm tall with 15-cm-rose-purple globes), or "Globemaster"
(an aster-violet-coloured giant with early foliage that stays green).
Most alliums or "flowering onions" are deer-and rodent resistant and
appear stunning when cut or dried. Hardiness zones 5-8.

are great for early-to mid-and late summer bloom," van den Berg-Ohms
said. "They're terrific for garden display as well as in cut
arrangements. The same with Dutch and dwarf iris." Some suggestions:
"Dot Com" lily (flowers in June and July with a pale whitish-pink bloom
and brilliant raspberry-red speckled centre), "Royal Fantasy" lily
(honey tones of soft yellow varying to cream with raspberry-rose
fragrance). Hardiness zones 4-8.

-Fritillaria are available in
many sizes, shapes and colours. Try the checkerboard-patterned,
bell-shaped, guinea hen variety (Meleagris). They are diminutive, showy
and long lasting. Hardiness zones 3-8.

-Galanthus, or Snowdrops,
one of the earliest flowers to emerge in spring. Try "Elwesii" (large
flowering variety with creamy white flowers tipped green on gray-green
foliage), or "nivalis Flore Pleno" (the so-called "Double Snowdrop" has
milky white, drooping flowers tipped green. A good naturalizer.)
Hardiness zones 3-8.

-Hyacinths. Compact, fragrant and hardy with
up to six stems per bulb. Try "Blue Festival" (purple-blue with pale
petal edges) or "White Festival" (opens creamy-white and matures to
snow white). Hardiness zones 4-8.

-Daffodils. Good naturalizers
with a long blooming season. Some favourites include the "Mount Hood"
(opens creamy yellow and turns ivory-white as it matures) and "King
Alfred Jumbo" (a large yellow variety popular for mass plantings or cut
flower arrangements). Hardiness zones 3-7.

-Camassia. Star-shaped
flowers on long stems that do well in moist sites. Try the "Blue
Danube" (a blue bloom with yellow stamens) or "Semiplena" (a
semi-double flowering plant with creamy blossoms, yellowing gradually
as they age).

-Crocus. Can be planted massed in rock gardens,
orchards, woodlots and gardens. Deer and other garden browsers usually
avoid them. They start showing up in March and April around the
Snowbelt. Try the "tommasianianus Lilac Beauty" (has star-shaped petals
in a soft lilac colour with contrasting yellow stamens) or the larger
"vernus Jeanne d'Arc" (a vivid white with yellow stamens and purple
base). Hardy through zones 4-8.

While it's fun to discover so
many flowering bulb varieties, don't be quick to reject tulips, either
– especially some of the new shapes in "designer" hybrids or the
tried-and-true heirlooms.

"When people think of tulips, they
usually think of the standard but spectacular tall, slender blooms,"
van den Berg-Ohms said. "But many new varieties have been introduced in
the last few years – blooms with fringes, doubles or lily-shapes. There
are even varieties now with six or seven flowers per stem."

the peony-like "Yellow Mountain" tulip (the pale yellow double is new
this season, fragrant with faint green lines showing on the lower
portions of the petals), the multi-flowering "Candy Club" (produces at
least four flowers per stem and shows predominantly in ivory with
pinkish edges) or the fringed "Max Durand" (a violet-purple bloom with
shaggy top and variegated leaves).

The benefits of heirloom bulbs
are many and varied, said Scott Kunst of Old House Gardens in Ann
Arbor, Mich., which specializes in unique and endangered flower bulbs.

bulbs are time-tested, which means the weaklings have been weeded out,"
Kunst said. "They're often more graceful because they're closer to
wildflowers, more fragrant – which is hard to breed for – and they come
in a wider variety of colours and styles."

Some rare tulips
include the "Absalon," an unusual chocolate brown on gold bloom (zones
4b-7a), the "Black Parrot," a deep maroon flower with frilly edges
(zones 3-7) and the "T. sylvestris Florentine," a wildflower with
small, yellow blooms and the scent of violets. Thomas Jefferson is said
to have grown the Florentine at Monticello. (zones 5-8a).

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