I sat down with design and bulb expert (both in the Gardens Aglow sense AND in the popping-up-from-the ground sense) Brent McHale, CMBG Horticulturist and Gardens Aglow Program Manager, who loves interesting shapes and color palettes. He gave me his top five fun and unusual bulbs, perfect if you’re looking for something new for your spring garden display.
- Allium karataviense, ‘Red Giant’, features unique, large leaves and holds up well compared to other alliums. The short, dark blooms contrast nicely with the foliage. (Think of a perfect scoop of maroon ice cream popping up from a bowl made from banana-leaf look-alikes.)
- Fritillaria persica, ‘Green Dreams’, is new to the market and quite an uncommon specimen. Its large bell-shaped blooms in subtle ombré shades of light green and plum dangle whimsically from straight stalks. The best news is that butterflies love it—and deer don’t. F. persica can also be found in deep purple (shown below).
- Tulipa praestans, ‘Shogun’, is a sparky, spiky tulip in a luscious buttery-gold color. Tulipa tarda, another with an interestingly spiky bloom, is a low-growing species that doesn’t mind rockier soils. These species seem to resist blight, and while the deer will probably still find them, they’re not as popular a menu item as other tulip species.
- Puschkinia scilloides, striped squill, is a beautiful bulb option and one that becomes naturalized quickly. These little silvery-blue blooms look beautiful growing in and amongst ornamental grasses.
- Allium chloranthum, ‘Yellow fantasy’, has flower heads that look like little yellow fireworks. A late-spring bloomer, this allium features strappy leaf foliage that takes a backstage and lets the flowers do their thing; it looks great interplanted with perennials.
Dig your bulbs in when it’s cold so that they don’t sprout too early. The best time is late October to early November, but before the ground freezes. Plant most bulbs 6-8” deep, little bulbs 2-4” deep. Depth rule of thumb: plant 3x size of bulb.