Langley gardening: New colours, sizes, shapes emerging in spring bulb selections

Bulb breeders are continuing to make fascinating changes in colours and shapes of the larger bulbs, especially in tulips.

Variegated foliage is beginning to echo flower colour as in ‘Easter Moon,’ a large yellow Fosteriana with yellow pink-blushed leaf edges.

Another that’s totally colour coordinated is the huge, double pink ‘Eternal Flame,’ with pink-edged foliage and green flames on the outside petals.

Attention is also turning to stems.

The little mango-orange ‘Shogun’ is said to have mango-flushed stems. ‘White Triumphator’ has white flowers with dusky stems.

A tulip where every bud reveals a surprise is ‘Flaming Flag.’ Its white petals have variable purple flames.

Fringed tulips are also evolving. ‘Cummins,’ for instance, has long, pure white fringes edging purple petals.

It’s so tempting to abandon tulips once they’ve flowered. Then you can look forward to a whole fresh display of exotic blooms next year.

Most people do just that, since only the little species tulips reliably flower the next year – and that’s only if they get no water in summer.

But you can save this year’s tulips if you let the foliage die down, then uproot them, shake off the soil, and store them inside over summer in a paper bag or cardboard box. Then plant them again in mid to late fall.

Tulips team well with pots of mixed bulbs, because the large bulbs can be planted as the deepest layer. Cover with a thin layer of soil then add a layer of daffodils above them, followed by smaller bulbs in layers higher-up.

The newer daffodils continue to evolve, especially with their trumpets.

These are now cups.

Many have gone beyond pink and are approaching orange-red.

Some lie flat against the outer petals, and everywhere there are ruffles, doubleness, fringes, and splits.

But the popularity of the older daffodil forms hasn’t waned, judging by the frequency with which they’re still offered – and they are the ones that naturalize most easily.

Hyacinth colours and shapes are still evolving.

In ‘Rembrandt,’ purple petals are edged with white.

There is also a very fragrant pink double ‘Prince of Love,’ joining the double whites and double blues that have been around for years.

For people with semi-shady garden beds, hyacinths can be planted out and enjoyed for years to come. They lose their tightly-flowered, pugnaciously blocky shape and become beautiful, elegant wands – similar to the shape of bluebells which were their ancestors many years ago.

There’s a wide choice of small bulbs for the edges of containers.

It’s tempting to choose crocus, because of their huge selection of colours, but it’s also useful to consider whether your garden has squirrels. If so, almost all crocus will need protection: wire or pea-netting, perhaps.

Early in the fall, squirrels mainly want to bury nuts. Later they want to find their nuts and eat bulbs.

The only crocus that repels them is the Crocus tomasinianus type. Cultivars include deep purple ‘Ruby Giant’ and mid purple ‘Barr’s Purple.’ All types are purple, but the species is a lovely grey-backed pale lavender.

Other small bulbs that squirrels hate include scillas, chionodoxas, and muscari. All are useful for the top layers of a mixed bulb pot.

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