March 26, 2011

Bulbs, Old and New

I love bulbs, tubers, and rhizomes and corms. The physiology of the plants has always fascinated me: how they can store all they need underground and sprout beautiful and lush seems an amazing feat.


However, right now my tulip bulbs are not really loving me back. Above, a crimson-colored late double tulip, Tulipia 'Double Dutch', was my only traditional tulip bloom in the perennial border (1 out of 20 bulbs), but did make a spectacular showing! Many bulbs are easy to grow, but in the South keeping your tulips blooming regularly proves to be somewhat of a chore. I think the problem in our garden is that they are mixed into the perennial sun border, an area which demands frequent irrigation in the summer months. The tulips, on the other hand, prefer to be dry during their dormancy. Perhaps I should dig and move these to a less water-intensive area. 

In a different location in the garden, these unique tulips (left) just beginning to push blooms above the foliage are a new addition last fall, a pink fringed late variety from the Biltmore Bulb Collection (Tulipia 'Party Time'). Narcissus (I prefer that name to daffodils) are a solid performer in our area, and many perennialize. My favorite in our garden is this pure white variety (right), a Triandrus group Narcissus with 2-3 flowers per stem (Narcissus 'Thalia'). On a warm day these heirloom beauties give off a slight sweet smell. 

I seem to have better luck with the smaller tulips in the garden. These little pink ones (left) are only 6 inches tall and will open any day now to show a royal purple heart (Tulipia 'Little Beauty'). The Muscari (right) were a pleasant surprise this spring.  These were first planted around Christmas 2 years ago when we moved into our house and have never flowered before. I even planted perennials right over them and they are still toughing through.


So on to the new bulbs part. Its time for summer bulb plantings already! Every year I generally order a few bulbs from Brent and Becky's. They are the only online source I use for bulbs, partially because they are a short drive away and in the same zone as us, but also because their bulbs are consistently high quality. I also love the included plastic tags for easy marking. This year I got a small variety, a couple Dahlias, Crocosmia, Dwarf Gladious, and a (supposedly) 10 ft tall Lilly. These all went in the day after arrival, leaving me with a blister from the bulb digger! I've quickly learned my lessons about bulbs in our garden and clay soil, and now plant everything with a small handful of gravel topped by a handful of soil to increase drainage. Like with the tulips, the wet environment during the dormant period is often the killer of marginal summer bulbs here. Dahlias and Gladious are marginal here, and I have seen first hand that with the same mulching they will come back in more well drained spots, but not in those wet soils. Hopefully I made the right choices in placement this year! With bulbs planted and blisters bandaged, now we wait for summer.

"I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright."  ~Henry David Thoreau


  1. I've just completed my Bulb purchases for the season and will be planting soon. Look forward to seeing how yours do!

  2. I've avoided bulbs for years. I think it's time to look into them again. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. I just came across your blog and am enjoying it. Some nice photography of the blooms in your garden and some interesting tulips. Thank your for sharing!

  4. excellent tulips you have, they are not out here, only a few little ones
    Greetings from Germany


  5. I tried to grow tulips from Turkey when I went for vacation there, they showed promises at first but in our hot climate, they didnt stand a chance! Love all you lovely tulips and narcissus.

  6. love my bulbs..they start my spring and finish my fall...not to mention all through the growing season there are bulb plants growing...tulips are a bit dicey here with our winters so only certain ones will come back

  7. Lovely photographs! I do adore bulbs...and have made a note to allow myself to splurge on them come fall. :)


Thanks for taking a walk in our garden.
Your comments are always appreciated.