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October 7th 2015

Floret’s favorites: “Other” Fun Fall Bulbs

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Floret

Today is the third and (slightly delayed) final installment of a three-part blog post focused on my favorite bulbs for fall planting.  Friday’s post focused on my all-time favorite tulip varieties; and last Thursday I shared my top picks for heirloom narcissus.  I’ve loaded up the posts with lots of pretty photos, plus planting tips and inspiration for planning your spring cutting garden, so be sure to read those if you missed them.

Today I’m focusing on a few other great types of flowers to include in your fall planting plans.  But before that, I want to congratulate the five big winners of the tulip bulb giveaway the other day:  Chris McLaughlin, Graham R. Spearman, Stephen Yates, KaCee Shepherd and Karen Lee.  We’ll be in touch soon to get your little bulb care packs off to you.

IMG_7752 IMG_7753First on the list of favorite miscellaneous fall-planted bulbs: Allium.  Alliums are an underutilized and somewhat under-appreciated flower that too often takes a back seat to better known bulbs in designers’ cutting gardens.  Yet, few other flowers pack the “wow” factor in a garden than big ‘ole perfectly round purple blooms of allium.  After completing a field trial of 35 different allium varieties, I’ve grown to really love and appreciate this versatile flower.

Also called “ornamental onion,” alliums share the same family as onions and garlic.  The flowers have a slight onion-y scent that is released when stems are cut or crushed.  These sturdy perennials are super easy-to-grow,  drought-resistant and unappealing to deer, voles and other pests.  Some varieties don’t begin to bloom until mid-summer, so with some careful planning of early and mid-season blooming varieties you can have a steady stream of allium gracing your gardens and bouquets next summer.   Here are a few of my favorites that I recommend adding to your bulb orders to plant this fall:

Allium giganteum: This. flower. is. gigantic.  This awesome softball-sized purple globe sits atop a slender stem that looks to have just shot out of the soil.

Drumstick christophii:  photos of this flower don’t even do it justice, as the size of the blooms is so over-the-top and even more enormous than allium giganteum.  Clusters of shiny purple star-shaped florets form an ball 10 or 12 inches across across, making it one of the largest flowers we grow.  The flowers are great conversation starters at farmers markets, make a statement in large floral installments, make great “magic wands” for kids, plus they dry beautifully, making them a versatile flower in your cutting garden.

If you are tight on space and not willing to dedicate precious real estate to the giant varieties, an allium worth noting is the simple drumstick allium. The bulbs are generally inexpensive, have small but sturdy blooms on extra long stems and pack a small but powerful punch of purple to summer bouquets.

IMG_9967 IMG_9978Another small but mighty flower that are always part of my fall bulb planting party are muscari, commonly called grape hyacinth.  These itty bitty blooms are a super special treat in the spring.  These hardy little guys can be planted in either sun or shade and aren’t super picky about soil types, so can thrive even in the roughest, toughest soils.

Although small in stature, these demure little blooms are great in bundles, boutonnieres or just mini bouquets.  Most commonly seen in the proverbial grape Koolaid color, there are actually many varietiess available if you search among specialty bulb providers with colors ranging from cool blues and rich violets to whites and even yellow.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Muscari ‘Ocean Magic’:   With rich cobalt and deep sea blues at the base, the ombre shades end in white tips– much like the ocean waves that undoubtedly inspired its name.

Muscari Armeniacum ‘Valerie Finnis’:  A perfect soft powder blue, I love these spritely little blooms–and so do the bees.

Other  fall-planted bulb worth mentioning and worth carving out a little space in your garden:

IMG_9547Hyacinths:  Hyacinths always seem to pop up near the entryway of stores around the same time that the neon marshmallow Peeps make their annual migration around Easter and Passover. Don’t let the tired blooms at big box stores fool you.  The options for hyacinth are SO much more diverse than what you see there, so take some time to track down the more unusual varieties.  Hyacinths are fragrant, reliable, and come in some delicious colors.  Two worth noting: ‘Apricot Passion’ which is a perfect peachy apricot color.  and ‘Gypsy Princess’ is a soft buttery yellow that is divine.

IMG_0145Leucojum ‘Gravity Giant’ — Also commonly called Summer Snowflake, these pretty nodding white flowers resemble little lampshades.  These early bloomers are always a welcome sight of spring.

IMG_0022Finally, I’ll close with another fun one: Frittilaria.   Frittilaria uva vulpis has uncommonly colored bell-shaped blooms that blend mahogany brown with merlot, tipped in yellow.

I also  love the nodding checker-board blooms of fritillaria meleagris simply for the novelty factor.  These distinctive flowers also are referred to as guinea hen flower or checkered lilies.   Like allium and narcissus, frittilaria are easy to grow and generally deer and varmint resistant.

There are just so many unusual and fun bulbs to plant in fall—Incredibly, this is only a fraction of what I need and want to get into the ground this fall and this list doesn’t even include the dozens of new varieties I want to try for the first time.  That’s part of the fun–each year I try to find few new favorites to add to my tried and true reliable spring bloomers.

After a long, hot super busy summer, my body and mind are usually ready for some much-needed rest, but I know that if I power through and tuck in lots of bulbs this fall, I’ll be rewarded with an incredible array of beautiful, bountiful blooms next spring.

What’s on your fall bulb planting list?  Do you have some go-to varieties not listed here? I’d love to know what will be growing in your garden next spring–please share your fave’s in the comments below.  Happy planting!

19 Comments

  1. Jenny on

    Drumstick allium is always on my list to plant. They are like purple eggs. Also, Tete a tete daffodils, since they are so little and sweet and come up first when I really need the color. Tahiti is one of my favorites also. Happy Planting!

    Reply
  2. Carol Jones on

    I Love, love, love . dahlias but I live northeast Florida. I am having a hard time finding the right ones for my zone, 9. I am just a flower lover and like to grow all kinds of different flowers, but sometimes the heat and humidity and just to hard on a lot of varieties I plant..I really need more information on what to grow and how . Please any information on this subject would be greatly appreciated. I just love to see all your post and especially the pictures of you carrying arm loads of beautiful flowers,,

    Thank you, Carol Jones.

    Reply
  3. Shin on

    I would like to try planting Alliums this fall. I have a small yard and usually plant few crocuses and tulips every other year. It is such a Spring feeling when I see them pop out from the snow covered ground.

    Reply
  4. Annette on

    Would love to plant some snowdrops! Planning on planting tulips.

    Reply
  5. Elise Luck on

    I love all of these! Alliums have been my favorite bulb for a while for the serious wow factor, but I still havent figured out how to use them in a mixed bouquet. Just so dang huge! One of my favorite bulbs to grow is Muscari “golden fragrance” I love the color variation from soft purple to golden yellow but the fragrance is just to die for!

    Reply
  6. Jill on

    I am new to cold snowy winters. I traded Texas for Canada last year. After a miserable first winter (the water pipes on my street froze) Spring felt like magic as a series of spring bulbs started to pop up. My favorite was one I had never heard of before, Nectarscordum, Sicilian Honey Garlic. It has clusters of pendulous white, pink & green flowers.

    Reply
  7. Kathy on

    I grow many of the ones you highlighted and also really love the small snowdrops that pop up early in the year… maybe not so good for picking, but lovely to see in the late winter.

    Reply
  8. Ruth on

    The one I’m most excited about is eremurus, they’re a bit expensive for me, and I don’t see them where I live, but I’m ready for the gamble, if it works I’ll be so happy.

    Reply
  9. Anna Price on

    I’ve been itching to plant some muscari and some fritillaria but we will see if I have time!

    Reply
  10. alejandro on

    I as well have planted alliums. This I my first time and they are the Purple Sensation allium. Hopefully they grow. Can someone who reads this recommend me where I can buy flower bulbs online. I have searched but I don’t trust the websites. I need a trustworthy online site that someone has bought from and received the bulbs a great condition. Any recommendations greatly appreciated

    Reply
  11. LindaQ on

    I was just wondering last week if you could use alliums in bouquets. I started planting alliums in my garden when I began to loose the tulip/Lily bulb battle with the chipmunks and the voles. Now I look forward to their bloom times, especially a ‘fireworks’ mixture that blooms for me in July. (Carinatum, carinatum ‘Album’ & ‘Flavum’) They look like little explosions of fushia pink, yellow and white. I will just have to plant more for bouquets!

    Reply
  12. Jillian mcfadyen on

    Can’t believe it’s already time to plan for next year…crazy! Such an exciting feeling considering new things are still emerging. Aside from the typical daffodils, tulips,& hyacinths I have purchased a few other bulbs. These include the fritillaria, alliums, and irises. This’ll year I am trying some totally new varities of bearded iris as well as foxtail lilies.

    Reply
  13. Lazy Harp Seal on

    I love spring crocus, especially white “Jeanne d’Arc” and “blue pearl”. Also Glory-of-the-Snow. They’re teeny, but so cute and cheery.

    Reply
  14. Jo Birna on

    Hi thanks for the post!
    Hoping at some point you will share your favorite varieties and growing tips for ranunculus.
    I so appreciate your knowledge and how you share it!
    Jo

    Reply
  15. Cindy K on

    We just got a Persian Lily in an almost black color and Lilac Wonder Tulips, which have a grass like foliage.

    Reply
  16. Jeanna Norris on

    I love Alliums too! We have ‘Purple Sensation’ alliums planted near the edge of our woods. I am excited to add to it more alliums, such as ‘Globemaster’ and ‘Aflatunense’. My kids love them because they are so differently shaped than the majority of other flowers we have in our gardens. I’ll look for those Alliums that you suggested as well! Thanks!!

    Reply
  17. Kathy on

    I am so anxious to try alliums, especially after your recommendations. I’ll be planting those in addition to some of the tulip varieties you suggested. Thank you!

    Reply

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