A GROWING CONCERN: A blooming-great time to plant bulbs

Here’s a list of 12 mandatory bulbs to buy to help make us “Flower Peninsula USA.”

AS OCTOBER MARCHES on, and contrary to what most gardening books and experts say, November is THE BEST (and only) time to plant bulbs here on the Peninsula.

If we are ever to become “Flower Peninsula USA,” then all of you must have spring (and winter) bulbs throughout your yard.

So, with that in mind, here is a list of 12 mandatory bulbs to buy.

They will be on closeout sale now, so shop around.

Species iris: These are magnificent, super early blooming, extremely hardy and naturalizing bulbs that will add great color to your February garden (and deer won’t eat them).

Species iris are very short (4 inches to 6 inches) that are exact miniatures of the common Dutch iris you find in traditional florist arrangements.

Furthermore, they have a surrealistic look as the flower blooms, so add these to your winter garden.

Crocus (giant or grandifloral): March, 4 to 5 inches high, full sun to shade, 2 inches apart, very perennial, great for forcing.

The grandifloras are truly magnificent for their size and brightness. They will naturalize in your lawn, on a hillside, trim on a pathway or as a border.

They adore well-drained soil (which we have in abundance) and, with a yearly bone meal feed in August or September, are virtually carefree.

Indoor narcissus (paper whites, narcissus papyraceus): January to March, 16 to 18 inches, sun to semi-shade, not hardy (may be stored), bulb on bulb, developed for pot forcing.

Paper whites and especially the superior new variety “ziva” are spectacular for indoor pots.

This is the way to get the bulb program off to a great start as early as day one of mid-early winter (Jan. 1).

Try a beautiful bowl with decorative gravel or as stocking stuffers and holiday table gifts. They are on automatic pilot, so anyone can grow these gems.

Rock garden or low growing daffodils: Late February to March, 8 to 12 inches, sun to shade, 3 to 4 inches apart, perennial, deer-resistant, cut flowers, pot forcing.

Here is the first of the uncommon narcissus to branch into.

Rock daffodils (miniatures) are an absolute in the garden for a multitude of reasons.

They are very early, so they greatly extend your daffodil collection bloom time.

They are short, so wind and rain won’t knock them over.

They commingle perfectly with a variety of other bulbs (grape hyacinths, rock tulips, striped quill) And they are unsurpassed in the rock garden, perennial garden or as a pot-forcing item in your home.

Outstanding varieties are “Tete-a-Tete,” “Minnow,” “Thalia,” “Scarlet Gem” or try to find the bigger cupped “Golden Bells.”

Large-cupped double narcissus: April, 14 to 18 inches, 4 to 6 inches apart, perennial, deer-resistant, cut flower.

The extra layers of petals give this large flowering spring bulb demanding attention.

They are used for accent spots, clumps in the perennial garden or as part of a knockout flower arrangement. Doubles are a great perennial.

Butterfly narcissus: Late March to April, 16 inches apart, deer-resistant, cut flower, pot forcing.

Here is another unique type of novelty daffodils.

Split corona narcissi (butterfly narcissus) are an eye-catching little group of daffodils.

They are classified by their interesting flower, which is split open centered cup.

They come in many bi- and tri-colors and are great when planted behind the rock garden types.

Put in front of large cupped for that ever-so-stunning three-tiered effect.

Specially tulips: April to May, 6 to 8 inches, sun to semi-shade, 2 to 3 inches apart, perennial.

Diving into the tulips, specialty tulips are unfamiliar to most gardeners. Their bulb is half or smaller than the size of conventional tulip.

They are actually species forms of native tulips growing on the hillsides in Asia and the Mediterranean.

They are low, fast-growing, need little care, have sandy soil and come back better every year (with bone meal). Need I say more?

Rock garden tulips: March, 6 to 12 inches, sun to shade, 3 to 4 inches apart, perennial, cut flowers.

Here is a whole category developed just for rock gardens. Ever-so-slightly later to bloom, these will get your yard off to a spectacular look.

Noted varieties are “Red Riding Hood,” “Fusilier” (both excellent pot forcers), “Toronto Tarafa” and any bi-colors. Many of the rock garden tulips are known as “Greigii” tulips.

Double tulips: Early and late March to June, 10 to 12 inches, sun to shade, 4 to 5 inches apart, perennial, outstanding cut flower.

Double tulips are perfect replicas of peony blooms. When you plant early and late together in the same hole, you get 8 to 9 weeks of fully double flowers.

Any variety will do.

Parrots: Late May, 18 to 20 inches, sun to shade, 4 to 5 inches apart, perennial, cut flower.

This is the tulip to have (my No. 1 choice this week).

The utterly unique flower pattern (fluffy ruffled petals) combined with true lateness of this type give you the grand finale to spring tulips.

Fringed: May, 22 to 24 inches, sun to shade, 4 to 5 inches apart, cut flower.

First cousin to the great doubles and parrots, fringed deserve more than honorable mention.

Fringes derive their category by the way in which each petal is extremely serrated.

This dazzling fringe gives these tulips mandatory status.

Hyacinths: Late March to early April, 8 to 12 inches, sun to partial sun, 5 to 6 inches apart, perennial, deer-resistant, cut flower, pot forcing.

We all know hyacinths for the garden, but get 25 or so for pot forcing.

With their heavenly scent, you’ll have the same scent and flowerin a pot at the table and a fresh-cut stalk in a vase on the bathroom stand.

So please, now that the time is right for us here on the Peninsula, go out and find discounted “end-of-season” bulbs at all the plant outlets and reap the financial savings.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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