Ask a Local Master Gardener: Yes, it’s flower bulb season

  • Trays store a variety of flower bulbs at a garden center.  TNS/ADRIN SNIDER

For the Gazette
Published: 8/30/2019 11:22:30 AM

Q: When should I start thinking about planting spring-blooming bulbs? —T.S., Easthampton

A: The answer, T.S., is now! Bulb season for us here in Zone 5 starts in September, which is just a couple days away. Many bulb companies have already sent out their Fall 2019 catalogs and you will soon start seeing an increasing emphasis on spring bulbs in local nurseries and garden stores. Once you have your bulb vision created, get your orders in pronto and keep your eye on the selection at your local stores as popular varieties sell out quickly.

Looking for something a little special to add to the traditional daffodils, tulips, and crocus? You are in luck—  there are so many intriguing options. I always plant a couple new-to-me bulbs each fall, just for fun experimentation. Who knows? A new favorite may be just a bulb away.

Here are a few ideas for you. Camassia leichtlinii “Blue Danube” is a North American native with spikes of blue star-like flowers blooming in late spring to early summer. Anemone blanda is a darling white daisy-like blossom that complements other colors well. It also comes in a blue variety called “Blue Shades.” Near ponds or streams, Leucojum aestivum “Gravetye Giant” has gorgeous white pendant drops looking like a melding of Snowdrop and Lily of the Valley shapes with a dot of green on the tips.

Also consider diminutive native species tulips for the front of your border or rock garden. They look nothing like traditional tulips. The Turkish Tapestry kinds have a touch of exotic flair and come in yellow, orange, and red colors. It is so hard to pick just a few to tell you about. One last one I’ll share is Frittilaria imperialis. It comes in warm color spectrum varieties, too, and has an unusual, eye-drawing profile with multiple blossoms topping a tall stem. OK — this time for real — a final suggestion is a fellow Frittilaria species called Frittilaria meleagris. I just love its unique checkerboard mauve, white, and burgundy-patterned bell flowers. It looks great in large groupings.

Got deer? You can have your bulbs and deer, too. Daffodils (Narcissus spp.) and alliums (Allium spp.) are two popular types of bulbs they typically leave alone. I have planted varieties of both and have not had a deer problem, for what that’s worth. They find them distasteful. If deer get really hungry, they may eat them – no guarantees they will not – but at least they are not a first meal choice. Keep bloom times in mind when making your bulb selections as they range across a couple months. Chionodoxa spp. and Snowdrops (Galanthus spp.) are a couple other deer-resistant options.

Enjoy this planning process, T.S. Thanks for asking a (local) Master Gardener.

Have a gardening dilemma? Please send questions, along with your name/initials and community, to the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association at One question will be answered per week.

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