GARDENING GODDESS: 5 flower bulbs you aren’t growing, but should be

GARDENING GODDESS • BY KATHY JENTZ

Are you stuck in a flower rut? Year after year, do you buy the same yellow daffodils and tall red tulips bulbs to plant in your garden each fall in anticipation of next spring? While these classic beauties certainly have their place in our landscape, why not think outside of what you can get at the big-box store and explore the world of minor bulbs?

Minor? That is what all the spring-blooming bulbs, which are not tulips and daffodils, are categorized as in the horticultural trade. While not minor at all in their garden impact, they are but a tiny percentage of the bulbs that get grown and sold worldwide. Here are five of them that, in humble opinion, should have a place in every Takoma Park/Silver Spring garden.

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Chionodoxa aka Glory of the Snow. Photo: Kathy Jentz, Washington Gardener Magazine

Chionodoxa, aka Glory of the Snow grows in full sun to part shade and comes in shades of pinks and blues. It comes up in late winter, just when we need a spot of color, and then disappears entirely after a few weeks, leaving no clean-up for you, the gardener. It is a tiny thing, but lovely in small groupings.

Ipheion, aka Starflower sends up its strappy, grass-like foliage in the fall, then flowers in spring. This one gives you lots of bang for your buck as each bulb sends up multiple flower stems. The star-shaped flowers bloom in shades of white or blue and it has a sweet, spiced fragrance.

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Fritillaria aka Checkered Lily. Photo: Kathy Jentz, Washington Gardener Magazine

Fritillaria, aka Checkered Lily grows in flood plains in Europe and is one of the few bulbs that tolerates, even prefers, moist soil. The dainty, bell-like blooms are exquisite and the mottled patterning is fascinating. They are deer-resistant and do not have an entirely pleasant odor, so plant away from your front door or bedroom windows.

Iris reticulata, aka Dwarf Iris appears in early spring along with the daffodils. The blooms come in pale blue to deep purple hues and it blends well with other bulbs or     can be massed at the front of a flower border. It tolerates deer and drought. The bloom has a sweet, honey fragrance that attracts early pollinators.

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Iris reticulata, aka Dwarf Iris. Photo: Kathy Jentz, Washington Gardener Magazine

Camassia, aka Quamash is a rare spring-flowering bulbs that is native to North America. It can thrive where most others do not – in other words, this is the bulb to grow under Black Walnmut trees, in clay soil, and in dry shade. The blooms are tall and a sky blue color or white. It flowers later in the season than most of the other minor bulbs, so place it combined with tulips and shade perennials like hosta and daylilies, where the bulb foliage will be somewhat masked while it dies down for the season.

Where can you find these minor bulbs? I’m glad you asked! This Sunday, October 5, 2014, all of these minor varieties described here (and many more!) will be for sale at the Takoma Horticultural Club booth during the Takoma Park Street Fair from 10am-5pm. Just look for the colorful booth near the corner of Carroll and Tulip (how appropriate!) Avenues. Bring your own tote bag for your purchase and cash or check, as the club cannot take credit cards. Veteran gardeners will be on-hand to answer all your bulb questions.

About the Author

Kathy Jentz
Kathy Jentz is editor of Washington Gardener magazine and is a long-time DC area gardening enthusiast. Washington Gardener is all about gardening where you live. She can be reached at @WDCgardener on Twitter and welcomes your local DMV gardening questions.