It's time to order your spring bulbs

Yes, it's still summer, but this is the time of year to think about next spring's bulbs, including tulips and fritillarias, which deer won't bother.

Courtesy of Donna Williamson
This was called a red fritillaria, but it won't go well in the garden with other bulbs that are true red. Still, it's pretty and it's deer-proof (because it has an unpleasant odor).

It’s the middle of a killer heat wave, and I am thinking about planting spring-flowering bulbs.

Tulips are lush and their rich color is glorious in spring, but they are deer bait.

Interesting tulips

Here in Virginia, our spring is not conducive to perennial tulips, so they are usually thought of as annuals. Yet there are a couple that withstand the early-season heat quite well:

  • Tulipa sylvestris, the woodland tulip, is a little yellow treasure and will come back year after year.
  • In the close-in "hospital" bed – where I grow little things until they can be put into the landscape without protection – I have a few Fosteriana tulips - ‘Flaming Purrisima’ is a good one. These are great fun if you love broken colors in tulips (a mosaic pattern of rich colors on the petals); each year they break in a different way, but only a few do it.

Deer don't like the smell

Because deer are a problem in my garden, I also plant giant fritillarias, which are also called crown imperials. They repel deer by smelling like skunks. (This odor is a problem, of course, if they're planted where people will be close-by.)

The yellow variety is very beautiful and cheery – they get about 2-1/2 to three feet tall and are quite majestic looking when planted with smaller, perky daffodils.

This year I wanted to see if the red and orange varieties were as pretty as the yellow. What I discovered was that that the bulbs I bought were both orange, one darker than the other. So I won’t be planting them with spectacular tulips such as ‘Monsella’ or ‘Carnival de Nice,' which are true red.

They will be lovely with 'Princess Irene' and other orange-blend tulips, and maybe some daffodils with orange cups.

As I plan my spring bulb plantings, thunder rolls outside and the air conditioner whines. The bulbs stay in my mind like an annoying song that keeps repeating until you want to scream.

Gardeners – sometimes, we're hard to explain.

Editor's Note: You may also want to read Donna's article "Fritillarias are never bothered by deer and other pests."


Donna Williamson blogs regularly at Diggin' It. She's a master gardener, garden designer, and garden coach. She has taught gardening and design classes at the State Arboretum of Virginia, Oatlands in Leesburg, and Shenandoah University. She’s also the founder and editor of Grandiflora Mid-Atlantic Gardening magazine, and the author of “The Virginia Gardener’s Companion: An Insider’s Guide to Low Maintenance Gardening in Virginia.” She lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. To read more by Donna, click here.

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