Recommended flower bulbs

Kat Fox

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‘Dark Dimension’ hyacinth could bring some drama to your garden. Photo from Veseys.

Fall has always been my favourite season, despite that whole going back-to-school thing when I was younger. As I get more interested in gardening, I’ve found a new reason to love fall (as if I needed another…scarves, boots, crunchy leaves and that smell!) But my new reason is one many gardeners can understand. It’s the excitement of finding new bulbs to plant.

‘Fantasy Creation’ muscari changes from the usual purple to a mossy green. Photo from Veseys.
‘Fantasy Creation’ muscari changes from the usual purple to a mossy green. Photo from Veseys.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a lot in my gardening education, including how I can plant a bulb one day and get a beautiful flower a few months later. I may have channel-surfed one time too many in the middle of the night, because when I think of planting flower bulbs, that catchy phrase “Set it and forget it” jumps to mind. I’m happy to have found such an easy and rewarding way to grow plants, though I’d be just as happy to have that phrase out of my mind for good.

But this post isn’t about how easy bulbs are to grow, or my excitement at browsing the beautiful and colourful bulb catalogues that arrive in the mail and on my computer screen. I decided to reach out to a few bulbs companies based in Canada to find out what they think is new and exciting this season, as well as what they recommend for new gardeners. These guys are the experts, and have been importing, selling and planting bulbs for a long time.

I spoke to John Barrett at Veseys, Pamela Dangelmaier at Botanus and Caroline deVries at Flower Bulbs R Us, and I’ve summarized their favourites below.

There are two muscaris on John’s list — ‘Golden Fragrance’ and ‘Fantasy Creation’. I’m not a big muscari fan, but these two are different from what I’m used to. ‘Golden Fragrance’ is yellow, not the usual purple, with light lavender tops. ‘Fantasy Creation’ is the purple that we all know so well, but it’s a double, and therefore much thicker and — dare I say — fluffier. Later in the season it turns to a mellow green. Other pluses are that ‘Fantasy Creation’ doesn’t spread as easily as other muscari and it blooms longer.

‘Dark Dimension’ hyacinth could bring some drama to your garden. Photo from Veseys.
‘Dark Dimension’ hyacinth could bring some drama to your garden. Photo from Veseys.

Another favourite of John’s is ‘Trepolo’, a new daffodil that looks like a star thanks to its white petals and orange-yellow split cup. He also recommends ‘Galactic Star’ a soft white-and-yellow frilled trumpet daffodil. Daffodils are great if you want something deer-proof — Bambi doesn’t like the taste of these bulbs. For a unique, dark-coloured plant next spring, he suggests trying the new ‘Dark Dimension’ hyacinth. It’s a deep, midnight-sky purple, a colour that I’m drawn to because of its novelty.

Two new tulips John recommends are ‘Snow Valley’ and ‘Dance Line Double’. ‘Snow Valley’ looks like it’s made of fabric or paper; its white petals have a pink fringe and green streaks up their sides. ‘Dance Line Double’ is, as the name suggests, a double tulip that may have passersby wondering if it’s even a tulip. It’s white with red striping.

The last recommendation from John is ‘Ping Pong’ allium, and — you guessed it — it looks like a ping-pong ball. White, ball-shaped and even about the same size, they could be the little bouncing balls of your garden next spring.

dasystemon tarda
Tulipa dasystemon are mini tulips that naturalize, often flowering longer than other tulips. (Photo from Botanus)

Pamela at Botanus has several favourites in a few different categories, including a new introduction, ‘Moulin Rouge’, a Triumph tulip that changes colour — a “changling”, she says. ‘Moulin Rouge’ starts white, changes to yellow and then ends with stripes of blazing red.

Pamela pointed out to me that there are several underrated bulbs out there, and one she wishes people paid more attention to is a mini-botanical tulip called Tulipa dasystemon. These little bright yellow-and-white tulips flower for a long time, and last for years, not diminishing over time like some hybrid tulips.

Pamela also likes ‘Akebono’, a bright yellow late double tulip with light red and green edging. They bloom in late spring, which is a bonus if you’re looking for some flowers that can help you keep colour during the spring to summer transition.

Two daffodils Pamela recommends are ‘Cheerfulness’ and Narcissus poeticus var. recurvus, called old pheasant’s eye. ‘Cheerfulness’ has white double flowers with yellow in the centre. Old pheasant’s eye has been around since the mid 1800s, which says something for its lasting appeal. It’s a late bloomer, very fragrant and a good choice for gardeners who want heirloom flower bulbs.

Pamela’s top pick for crocus is snow crocus ‘Blue Pearl’. Crocuses are one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring, last for years and are easy to grow. ‘Blue Pearl’ is purple with a glowing yellow throat.

For a bulb with size, stamina and impact, Pamela’s top choice is ‘Globemaster’ allium. Starting as tight, round purple balls, they expand to massive “globes” on sticks.

Caroline at Flower Bulbs R Us shared a few colour trends she has been noticing — namely white with orange, purple and red. When asked what unique bulbs stand out in her mind, she passed on this list:

Camassia ‘Leichtinni’ (purple); any white or pink muscari; ‘Flaming Spring Green’ tulip (white petals streaked with red and green); ‘Francois’ Triumph tulip (white); and ‘Ice Stick’ tulip, a new Kaufmannia (white petals with pink streaks and yellow centre).

When it comes to Caroline’s personal favourite tulips, she goes for the tried and true, ones she knows perform well and will give her the biggest bang for her buck. Here’s her list of top, proven-to-perform tulips:

‘Ivory Floradale’ (creamy white); ‘Garant’ (yellow); ‘Gavota’ (maroon petals with yellow edging); ‘Queen of the Night’ (maroon-black); ‘Maureen’ (white); ‘Renown’ (vibrant pink); ‘Menton’ (rosy pink with subtle orange highlights).

‘Menton’ tulips are a favourite of Caroline's. Photo from Flower Bulbs R Us.
‘Menton’ tulips are a favourite of Caroline’s. (Photo from Flower Bulbs R Us)
‘Queen of the Night’ tulips are a striking brownish-maroon. Photo from Flower Bulbs R Us.
‘Queen of the Night’ tulips are a striking brownish-maroon. (Photo from Flower Bulbs R Us)

All three bulb experts gave me a lot of options, some of which I’m hoping to plant in my front garden this fall.

If you have a favourite bulb, one that you’re eager to try this year, or any other comments about what bulbs you’re planting this year, please share in the comments or email me at [email protected]. My favourite plants consistently turn out to be ones that are recommended to me, and I’m sure it’s true for many of us!

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2 thoughts on “Recommended flower bulbs”

  1. Eranthis! These wee surprises bloomed for us shortly after we bought our house and we’ve been using them ever since. The combo of Eranthus bulbs for their buttercup early cheer and longevity (far and away beyond crocus) coming up through a carpet of Ceratostigma Plumbaganoides (fabulous groundcover) is a fave.
    It doesn’t hurt to sprinkle a few Anemone blanda – those blue stars shooting up through the green mounds bring up visions of wild Alps meadows in spring.
    Candy Venning
    Landscape Design


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