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.
First 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.
Another 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:
Hyacinths: 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.
Leucojum ‘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.
Finally, 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!