Do you enjoy movies when lovers walk hand and hand off into the sunset? Then you will love bulb catalogues.
By Chris Cohan
o you enjoy movies when lovers walk hand and hand off into the sunset? Then you will love bulb catalogues. Where else will you get copy such as: “She is a flawless, scented beauty with a graceful pale rose blush” and “This temple of beauty is smoldering with deep red flushes.”
These alluring descriptions capture our imagination. We forget the humdrum of daily life and conjure up visions of fragrant, multifaceted beauty. The finest Impressionist painters came close but failed to achieve what you will accomplish in your garden. Grab a bulb catalog, get lost in it, mark the bulbs that attract you, and buy them.
Tulips are just too alluring to say no to. True, they have their failings. Deer enjoy them and over time they decline in health. Ah, but isn’t that their attraction? One must grasp at the fleeting beauty before it is lost. How often have we thought back and wished we had not let go of that love, that charm, that moment of ecstasy. No, something foolish like practicality got in the way.
There you stand waiting for a late train, dropping off an unappreciative child, dealing with a distracted mate or annoying boss. Bulbs bring back those wistful moments. Tulips, daffodils, and bluebells are the backbone of any bulb-planting effort.
Bold peony-flowering tulips with names like Sensual Touch and Charming Beauty should be planted where you can appreciate every subtle nuance of their voluptuous beauty. Don’t overlook Fringed, Giant Darwin, Triumph, Parrot, and Species varieties. Species may be small but they multiply, and do well in rock gardens. Parrots beg to be the star with their showy fringed plumage and sensational striations. They are late bloomers, combining well with earlier and dependable Darwin.
Narcissus, daffodils, tazetta, and jonquil are all Narcissi. Together, they are the most widely grown naturalizing flower bulbs because they multiply, tolerate sun to part
shade, and are deer and rodent-proof. Narcissi have three distinct blooming periods — early, middle, and late season. Make sure to buy some of each. For history buffs, try dainty species, which were originally found in the wild, hundreds of years ago. Narcissus bulbocodium conspicuus dates from 1629. This early bloomer naturalizes well and grows to six inches in height.
Poeticus, The Poet’s Narcissi, is fragrant. Pheasant’s Eye has large white petals edged with hints of red, yellow, and a pinch of green. This late-blooming beauty dates from 1850.
Sweetly fragrant Jonquils produce two to six small-cupped flowers on stems. Trumpet daffodils have long sturdy stems. The best know variety is King Alfred.
Hyacinthoides, bluebells, take over as the Narcissi finish. They tolerate most sun and soil conditions allowing you to plant deeper into the shade. Bluebells can turn the most moribund understory wasteland into an enchanting forest. English bluebells date to the late 16th century. Those Brits knew a good thing when they saw it. There is nothing like a mature English countryside estate with centuries of naturalized bluebells in full bloom. Closer to home, Friends of Rye Town Park planted 40,000 bluebells under trees along the inside of the Forest Avenue wall.
The Spanish bluebells are younger, dating from only 1601, are a few inches shorter than their older kin and come in blue, pink, and white. You can create your own fragrant waves of bluebells. They are small, inexpensive and easy to plant.
Do not delay, go forth and buy, buy, buy bulbs. Stretch, loosen up, dig, and plant. Make sure you prepare the holes well. Dig a few inches deeper than final planting depth. Mix bone meal into excavated soil. Replace a few inches of loose soil in bottom to ensure ease of new root growth and drainage. Make sure to place bulbs root side down. Cover, gently tamp, and water lightly to settle soil. Level with extra soil as needed.
The payoff begins next spring as your bulbs push forth from the barren ground. They appear almost bowing to you in recognition of your hard work. It is their thank-you before beginning the garden show just for you.