Plan for Spring this Fall
Old-fashioned spring bulbs keep giving and giving and giving. They come back year after year in spite of stress because they are dormant and store energy underground during the worst heat and drought of summer. They have very few insect pests and disease problems. Some are deer-resistant and can be very poisonous. Your childhood home most likely has a clump of German Iris still living, Spring Beauties in the lawn, and cheerful yellow Daffodils scattered randomly. Nothing lasts like self-reliant bulbs! I love them, because they are a connection with perennial gardeners of the past.
The time to buy spring bulbs is in the fall. It pays to know which bulbs can take clay soils, heat, drought, and humidity. If you live in the Southeast and purchased Daffodils from a wholesale nursery in Oregon, where they propagate their cold-loving bulbs in moist, well-drained soil, new bulbs may only last one year. Bulbs have a range of cold-tolerance, so check out the hardiness of each species before you buy. When you make your fall bulb purchase, choose varieties adapted to your area, and if possible, buy from a local or regional supplier. If you wait too long to plant in the fall, your new bulbs will dry out and mold, just like onions left too long in a refrigerator. Planting by Thanksgiving gives bulbs exposure to cold and improves the bloom.
In heavy clay, forget trying to grow Anemone sp., Camassia sp., Dahlia sp., Eranthus sp., Fritallaria sp., or Galanthus sp., unless you’re up for some disappointments. They’re not impossible, but they are a challenge for beginners. Here are some recommendations for bulbs and bulb-like favorites for heavy clay.
In the early Spring Leucojum aestivum (Summer Snowflake), Iris danfordii (Baby Yellow Iris), Crocus sp., Iris reticulata, Hyacinth sp., Narcissus sp. (Daffodils and Jonquils), Muscari sp. (Grape Hyacinths), Scilla sp. (Squill), Tulipa sp., and Allium sp. bloom.
In late Spring Begonia sp., Ornigotholum sp. (Star of Bethlehem), Oxalis sp., Allium sp., Convallaria sp. (Lily of the Valley), Chionodoxa sp. (Glory of the Snow), Amarylis sp.(not the Hippeastrum sold for Christmas), Ipheion sp. (Spring Star), Hippeastrum reginae (St. Joseph’s Lily rather than the ones sold for Christmas), and Iris germanica bloom.
In the Summer Caladium sp., Colocasia esculenta (Elephant Ears), Crinum sp., Hyacinthoides sp. (Bluebells), Agapanthus sp. (Lily of the Nile), Eranthus hyemalis (Winter Aconite), Hymenocallis sp. (Spider Lily), Crocosmia sp., Canna sp., and Gladiolus sp. bloom.
In the Fall Lycoris sp. (Resurrection Lily), Zephranthes sp. (Rain Lily), Colchicum autumnalis (Fall Crocus), Cyclamen sp., and Hedychium sp. (Ginger Lily) bloom.
If you combine sweeps of these bulbs in a perennial border with Hosta, Sedum, Chrysanthemums, Pansies, and some antique roses, you’ll have reliable color all year.