It’s time to think about ordering spring bulbs this fall. No, I’m not rushing things. Making bulb plans now, with the garden standing fully at its height, allows me to figure out where I can hide ripening bulb foliage next spring. Once the garden is cut down in fall, I forget how tall plants are, or where they are, and that means I plant tulips in front of the hostas (instead of behind them), and away from the daylilies (instead of among them). I could draw a diagram of where things are, but will I be able to find it when planting time comes? Probably not, so I just put slim bamboo canes in the appropriate places for bulb planting. This has worked well, and I manage to get tall bulbs planted behind tall perennials, so ripening foliage is hidden.
I particularly like the small minor bulbs, and these need to be ordered and planted early. They hold far less moisture than larger tulip bulbs, and consequently dry out when out of the ground for too long. Snow drops (Galanthus cvs.), winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis), windflowers (Anemone blanda) and the earliest species crocus (Crocus tommasinianus and cvs.) all need to be planted by mid-October. Of course, it’s entirely likely I’ll be planting larger bulbs until the end of November.
This year, I plan to order a selection of lily-flowered tulips, with pointed petals reflexing back and outward. They have such an exuberant demeanor, looking like they just can’t wait to greet the day. A good selection of lily-flowered tulips isn’t always easy to find (their catalogue space may have been displaced by parrot tulips), and starting early will help me get what I’m after. There are lots of colours, sizes and forms to select from, including the fetching ‘Ballerina’ tulip, with reflexed apricot-orange petals and a heady scent when standing in sun.
I’d also like to find another two I grew years ago. ‘West Point’ is a canary yellow lily-flowered tulip with the most arched petals I’ve every seen. Another is ‘China Pink’, a small, dusky pink lily-flowered tulip with cottage garden charm. Finding these tulips from a Canadian source may not be easy, but I’ve got a few weeks to search online bulb sources. It’s never too early.