(HOST) Many of our favorite springtime flowers are planted as bulbs in the fall, and commentator Charlie Nardozzi suggests planting some unusual bulbs this year for a little extra variety.
(NARDOZZI) Fall is bulb planting time for many gardeners. This year instead of popping in the usual tulips and daffodils, why not try growing some unusual bulbs to brighten up your spring garden.
One of my favorite unusual bulbs is fritilaria. They range in height from six inches to three feet tall depending on the variety. My favorite selection is Crown Imperial. It grows quickly in late spring to a height of three feet tall and has clusters of bright orange or yellow flowers hanging like bells from the flower stalk. One great feature is the smell they exude. It wards off rodents from the garden making fritilaria an excellent companion for tulips to protect them from mice and voles.
Another fun bulb to grow is the iris. Most gardeners know of the bearded and Siberian irises that grow from rhizomes and roots, but there is a whole group of bulbous iris that can be planted in fall as well. Iris reticulata emerges in early spring to produce a three to four inch tall blue or white iris flower. Iris danfordiae is similar to iris reticulata except it produces bright, canary colored flowers. These are best planted in a rock garden or along a walkway where they are easy to appreciate.
Alliums are gaining in popularity for their large, showy displays of colorful globes in late spring. ‘Globemaster’ allium is the classic three to four foot tall flowering onion that has deep purple flowers. A nice white version is named ‘Mount Everest’. Another is the shorter Allium moly ‘Jeanine’. It produces bright yellow flower balls on 12-inch tall plants and looks great planted with low growing bulbs such as iris reticulata. Allium atropurpureum features unusual burgundy-colored flower balls that are arranged on two-foot tall plants. The tall varieties are best tucked in between perennials such as peonies and daylilies. The flower stalks emerge, as if, out of nowhere and the flower balls seem to float above the foliage. Another plus is the smell. It makes alliums rodent and deer resistant and they seldom get any diseases.
Speaking of which, if you have mice and voles munching on your tulip, crocus and hyacinth bulbs there are ways to protect them. When planting this fall sprinkle a handful of crushed oyster shells, seas shells, or even dried eggs shells in the hole. The burrowing rodents will come in contact with the sharp edges of these materials and decide to graze elsewhere. For a small planting, consider digging a hole, lining it with a wire cage and planting your precious bulbs inside the cage. Secure the top of the cage as well and the bulb foliage and flower stalks will grow though the cage holes, but your furry friends will be thwarted.
So expand your bulb planting palette this fall and enjoy all the new surprises next spring when they emerge.
This is Charlie Nardozzi in Shelburne.
Charlie Nardozzi (Nar-DOH-zee) is an all-around gardening expert with a special fondness for tomatoes and roses.