Instant gratification is all well and good, but sometimes a little foresight makes the wait worth it. It’s never too early to begin planning your fall bulb planting. The catalogues are arriving now—I always order from Brent and Becky’s (brentandbeckysbulbs.com). You can search for bulbs based on the Plant Hardiness Zone where your garden’s located. Long Island and New York State generally fall within Zone 7, which is perfect for gladiola, aster, allium and anemone, among others.
My reward for fencing in the back yard is that I get to plant tulips. Deer love them, and there’s nothing sadder than seeing the bloom-less stems, naked and shivering in the cool morning air after deer have raided your garden the night before. Darwin types are the most reliable and, to me at least, they are the quintessential tulip: large oval-shaped buds with thick, velvety petals in an assortment of rich colors. They grow tall and fragrant. I’ve worked in several circumstances where tulips are used as annuals—removed after blooming to insure the next planting will be spectacular. You can try your perennial luck with the equally gorgeous Fosteriana (petals have scalloped edges) and specious (smaller bloom, pointed petals) varieties.
One of the first signs of spring is the colorful cup-shaped flowers and dark green, spiky leaves of crocuses pushing up through the grass. Crocus tommasinianus, also called the woodland crocus, early crocus, or snow crocus, can withstand cold temperatures as well as marauding squirrels searching for edibles after the long winter. There’s also a fall-blooming variety of crocus I’m thinking of planting this year. And, of course, crocus sativus, the original saffron crocus from whence, yes, saffron is derived.
You might try your luck with alliums. Deer are not fond of them, always a bonus. The stems are thick and straight, topped with a ball of multiple purple or white flowers. The architectural quality of the plants makes them ideally suited for borders. Do let yourself buy at least one allium shubertii and be prepared for the amazing blooms that resemble exploding fireworks!
Something to consider when planning your garden is the bloom schedule of each species of plant. Camassia are not used nearly enough and are perfect for a pop of late-spring color. They’re also called camas lily, wild hyacinth and Indian lily.
Another of my favorites in the hyacinth family is the hyacinth non-scripta, or the English bluebell. These are stems (averaging 12” in height) of dangling bell-shaped flowers with a wonderful sweet, clean smell. They thrive in the shade and will form a thick carpet of plants if left to grow naturally.
Let’s not forget the lily! Martagon lilies, though they may take a season to settle in to their new home, are well worth it. Delicate stems of multiple graceful flowers, which come in a variety of rich colors, from yellows and oranges to burgundies and pinks. The Pink Perfection lily has the quintessential lily shape: large, trumpet blooms with deep cups, and petals ranging from the dusky shades of a sunset to the fiery hues of a sunrise.
With summer approaching, it can be hard to look ahead to the colder months of the fall when it’s an ideal time for planting bulbs. Make your list now and imagine the reward of seeing all these beautiful blooms next spring.