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Planting Bulbs for Spring

4 Vendémiaire: Colchique (Crocus)

Holy crap, fall came suddenly. And if it sneaked up on you like it did on me, you might have been surprised to see bulbs at the garden stores everywhere, but it really is about the time to think about bulbs for spring, like today's theme, which is crocus.

CrocusesThere are apparently autumn crocuses (crocii?) but the ones I'm more familiar with bloom in the spring. Crocus is a favorite bulb because it comes so early, often in March in these parts of Pennsylvania if you get the earliest varieties, and I've even had it blooming during a warm January thaw once or twice. If it snows, they'll close up their petals and wait until the sun is out, bless their little hearts. Crocus has thin, almost needle-like leaves (like many other bulbs, the foliage isn't very impressive or pretty after it's bloomed), but it's super hardy and sends up short stalks with flowers in a variety of colors, most commonly in whites, yellows, and purples.

TulipsTulips are always a favorite too, of course, and they range from mid- to late-season bloomers in dozens upon hundreds of varieties. (There are tulip catalogs left and right.) But the squirrels seem to like them as much as I do, and I find that many tulip bulbs end up eaten or transplanted in the middle of my lawn. Of course, you can plant in cages, wrapped in chicken wire, etc., but I just haven't gone to those lengths to protect tulips (yet).

DaffodilsI also love daffodils though, and they must not be very tasty, because the squirrels don't bother them. Daffodils are almost exclusively in whites and yellows, albeit a variety of combinations of those colors.

There are two important things to know when planting bulbs:

  1. Make sure it's pointing the right direction; there's a pointy end and a root end. You want the pointy end up.
  2. Plant the bulb 2-3 times as deep as its diameter. The bigger the bulb, the deeper it needs to go. This also means you can easily interplant bulbs that go at different depths and flower at different times (crocuses together with tulips or daffodils, for example).

Your local garden center likely has a fair variety of bulbs, but that's only scratching the surface of the many varieties you can find. I'm from Michigan, and you may have heard of Holland, MI and its annual tulip festival. And one of my favorite places to shop for bulbs is the Michigan Bulb Company. Another favorite many folks know is Breck's, imported from the real Holland.

So what about you? What are your favorite spring bulbs and varieties?