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Each flowering stem of this bulb produces eight to twelve flowers that open consecutively over a period of three to four weeks. The flowers are fragrant, white, and starry, and have a conspicuous red/maroon center. Its linear, sword-shaped, 2- to 3-foot-tall leaves resemble those of Gladiolus, but are more slender and graceful.
Allium 'Globemaster' is a true showstopper, growing to about 32 inches tall. Very large, majestic purple spheres up to 8 inches across bear numerous star-shaped, deep lilac flowers in May and June.
This plant produces dense clusters of bright blue flowerheads up to 1 inch wide. Its leaves clasp its stem and die back before flowering.
This bulbous perennial produces ribbed stems and strap-shaped, gray-green basal leaves that decline as its flowers form. In early summer, it bears umbels that are 10 to 12 inches in diameter, and contain up to 100 star-shaped fuchsia flowers with a metallic sheen.
In summer, this plant bears large rounded flower heads up to 4 inches across with a multitude of star-shaped lilac-pink flowers.
For long-lasting bright yellow flowers that sparkle in midsummer, try Allium moly. It is robust, hardy, and an excellent cut flower, naturalizing and increasing happily in the sun in most garden soils. The cultivar 'Jeannine' flowers earlier and produces larger umbels on sturdier stems.
The purple or white pom-pom flowers of chives top aromatic stems in summer. The leaves are edible and have a mild onion flavor; the flowers can be used as garnishes. Plants grow in dense clumps to 2 feet high. Use chives in a cottage, herb, or vegetable garden, or in containers.
This plant bears 12- to 18-inch blooms with nearly 100 pink-rose flowers. When the flowers are spent, they are replaced by airy, fluffy seedpods.
The drumstick allium has egg-shaped flowers in summer that start off green, then bloom and develop to pink and then clover red-purple. These plants are attractive in a bed or border, especially peeking up through other plants, such as roses, so that their nondescript foliage is hidden. Their vertical presence and eye-catching flower shape are valuable additions to the garden, and they naturalize freely.
Spikes of violet, star-shaped flowers top stems reaching from 2 to 4 feet in late spring. The species is native to western Oregon. 'Blue Danube' would be beautiful in a border, meadow, or containers. Camassia make good cut flowers.
This little elephant ear has velvety dark leaves with prominent green veins and a large silvery central blotch. It reaches about 2 feet high.
'Coffee Cups' is an unusual and relatively recent introduction. It has nearly black stems and cup-shaped leaves. 'Coffee Cups' is a vigorous grower, and, with a height of 6 feet, it's a good choice for the back part of a border. -Andy Cabe, Regional Picks: Southeast, Fine Gardening issue #120
The heart-shaped leaves of 'Illustris' are huge, and their dark highlights are stunning. This elephant ear is a lover of moist shade, but does best with a little dappled sunlight. It will tolerate boggy conditions. -Julia Jones, Fine Gardening issue #120
This purple-leaved hybrid has Crinum bulbispermum in its blood, so it is more cold hardy than many other purple-leaved crinums. In spring, 'Sangria' sends up 2-foot-long leaves (it will stay evergreen in frost-free climates). 'Sangria' crinum serves as a superb substitute for phormiums, though it is somewhat less upright. It is grown for its foliage alone or for its pink flowers, which appear in the spring. -Andy Cabe, Regional Picks: Southeast, Fine Gardening issue #120
Dutch crocus is one of the hardiest, if not the hardiest, crocus species readily available to home gardeners. A true harbinger of spring, it can be planted in borders, rock gardens, and even lawns. After flowering, the foliage must be left intact until it withers, which may cause lawn-mower anxiety in some gardeners. Often sold as "mixed crocus," cultivars of this species are typically white, lilac, or purple and white striped.
This species boasts maroon-speckled stems and green flowers with maroon margins. The flowers occur on thick, solitary stalks bearing bottle-brush-like wands of tightly-clung florets, which are crowned by tufts of green bracts. As the common name implies, these unusual and magnificent inflorescences are reminiscent of pineapples.
This species boasts stems and undersides of leaves with maroon spotting, and white flowers tinged with maroon. The flowers form on 24-inch-long, thick stalks bearing bottle-brush-like wands of tightly-clung florets, which are crowned by tufts of green bracts. As the common name implies, these unusual and magnificent inflorescences are reminiscent of pineapples.
This bulbous perennial has striking reddish purple, strap-like leaves and foot-long purple flowers that resemble pineapples in late summer. Grow in a sunny border, container, or greenhouse. Plants used outdoors may be overwintered in a frost-free location. The species is native to South Africa.
This outstanding cultivar boasts dark burgundy leaves that slowly change to olive green, and then revert back dramatically as the flowers fade. The flowers form on 20- to 30-inch stalks bearing bottle-brush-like wands of tight, smokey pink florets, which are crowned by tufts of purple bracts. As the common name implies, these unusual and magnificent inflorescences are reminiscent of pineapples.
The giant snowdrop has larger flowers and broader leaves than the more common G. nivalis, but grows to the same 4 inches tall and wide. Its white, nodding blooms appear in late winter, signalling spring around the corner.
Snowdrops are some of the earliest bulbs, and flowers in general, to bloom in spring. Galanthus nivalis is the most common species, and its cultivars are the most commonly grown snowdrops on the market. They are reliably hardy and perennial. They grow to 4 inches tall and wide and flower in mid- to late winter, long before most other plants. They are the first sign of spring around the corner. Flowers are nodding and white.
A native of South Africa, summer hyacinth sends up spikes of lovely white flowers in late summer amidst dark green, strap-like foliage, when many other perennials are done blooming. The tall spikes are fragrant and especially dramatic planted with darker foliage or flowers.
This bulb blooms in early summer with striking, sweetly-scented white and yellow flowers that appear on leafless stems up to 24 inches tall. Petals curve up to accent a daffodil-like cup, sometimes with green-striped tubes. Peruvian daffodil has long, strap-shaped, arching, dark green leaves.
Tall bearded iris tolerates dappled shade, but full sun promotes maximum flowering of deep red blooms. Spring or fall is the time to deadhead and cut the foliage back. This perennial makes a wonderful backdrop to spring bulbs. ‘Rip City’ is just one of hundreds of cultivars of tall bearded iris.
One of the first plants to emerge, this 24-inch-tall bulb bears nodding white bells as early as mid-January. Blooms are faintly chocolate-scented; leaves are glossy, erect, and strap-shaped.
Often used by florists and for weddings, 'Casa Blanca' lily has large, pure white, scented flowers.
The first true double-flowering Oriental lily, this plant has delicate pinkish white blooms that open in July and August. They are as stunning in the mixed border as they are in the vase. Each bloom has 18 beautiful petals, making it unique among Oriental lilies.
Often used by florists, 'Star Gazer' lily has bright crimson flowers with purple spots and dark edges. These lilies grow to about 3 feet tall, so they generally don't need staking.
One of the oldest garden flowers, the madonna lily has bright green hosta-like basal rosettes appearing in winter and shallow-rooted bulbs that give it a distinctive appearance. In late spring, it thrusts up leafy torches topped with pristine scented blossoms in a raceme of 5 to 10 trumpet-shaped flowers.
From late August through early October, this lily bears eight or more 10-inch-long, deliciously scented, pristine-white trumpets (sometimes blushed pink on the outside) upon each stem. After the flowers fade, the stalks turn upward, opening elegantly as the seeds ripen and the pods dry to form a weather-resistant candelabra to adorn the winter garden or to use in dried arrangements
The brilliant blooms of these hybrid lilies boast the fragrance of Oriental lilies and the vitality and large size of trumpet lilies but with “hybrid vigor”—more strength and disease resistance and a higher tolerance of extreme cold as well as hot and humid conditions than their parents. Plants can reach a height of up to 8 feet and are covered with an abundance of blooms from July to mid-August, when many lilies have already faded. Scores of hybrids are available with varying blooming time, fragrance, form, and color, including 'Anastasia', 'Catherine the Great', 'Scheherazade', and the ever-popular 'Leslie Woodriff'.
Grape hyacinths are hardy, easy to grow, and have long-lasting blooms--no garden should be without them. They are particularly spectacular when allowed to naturalize, whether under trees, along a pathway, tucked into ground covers, or in a bed.
These double-flowered grape hyacinths are a good candidate for beds and borders because they increase only by division. They also bloom longer than those that hasten through spring eager to set seed. April-flowering 'Blue Spike' has the largest inflorescence of the species, with fully double flax-blue fluffy heads (each pedicel carries multiple individual flowers instead of one) and narrow, linear leaves.
These double-flowered grape hyacinths are a good candidate for beds and borders because they increase only by division. They also bloom longer than those that hasten through spring eager to set seed. 'Fantasy Creation', a sport of 'Blue Spike', has a large pyramidal raceme resembling broccoli. Its blue flowers gradually turn purple, then green, fading toward yellow. It doesn't wilt and rarely sets seed, making it useful for dried flower arrangements.
Grape hyacinths are hardy, easy to grow, and have long-lasting blooms--no garden should be without them. 'Saffier' is a good candidate for beds and borders because it increases only by division. Its strong, rigid flower stalks start celery-green and mature to robust medium-blue blossoms with distinct pale-green lips at the mouth of each floret. The constricted openings prevent access to pollinating insects, resulting in blooms that last a full month and making them excellent cut flowers.
Grape hyacinths are hardy, easy to grow, and have long-lasting blooms--no garden should be without them. They are particularly spectacular when allowed to naturalize, whether under trees, along a pathway, tucked into ground covers, or in a bed. 'Blue Magic' has a true-blue hue and is great for forcing.
Grape hyacinths are hardy, easy to grow, and have long-lasting blooms--no garden should be without them. They are particularly spectacular when allowed to naturalize, whether under trees, along a pathway, tucked into ground covers, or in a bed. This species blooms early, in March in some areas. It has sky-blue frilled bells with indigo stripes. Although the blossoms aren't long-lived, they self-sow freely, providing more flowers to enjoy the following year.
Grape hyacinths are hardy, easy to grow, and have long-lasting blooms--no garden should be without them. This species, also known as the feather hyacinth, has slender airy filaments and resembles a red-violet plume. It's completely unlike its grapy cousins in color and form, and makes a good, 10-inch cut flower. The bulbs themselves have a distinct pink color and produce toothlike bulblets that grow to flowering size in just one season.
From fleshy leaves arise bell-shaped, purplish blue, sometimes almost black, flowers. Flower heads appear two-toned due to paler crowns, which are sterile flowers. Grape hyacinth is good for naturalizing in gardens or lawns, for forcing or growing in container displays, and for rock gardens.
This graph hyacinth is a tall, brilliant powder-blue showstopper that shows beautifully with pink-cupped daffodils. Its namesake, Valerie Finnis, was a famous British plantswoman and photographer. Grape hyacinths are hardy, easy to grow, and have long-lasting blooms--no garden should be without them. They are particularly spectacular when allowed to naturalize, whether under trees, along a pathway, tucked into ground covers, or in a bed.
The flowers of this grape hyacinth are stunning, reaching 8 to 12 inches tall. The blossoms burst in April and May, with yellow-rimmed opaque blue-black skirts tapering to a perfect conical shape, which is set off by glaucous deep green foliage. Grape hyacinths are hardy, easy to grow, and have long-lasting blooms--no garden should be without them.
Tazetta-type daffodils, including the paperwhites that can be forced into bloom indoors during the winter, are also fragrant. ‘Avalanche’ has a cluster of 10 to 20 tiny flowers, creating almost an entire bouquet on one stem. Its flowers, with white petals and pale-yellow cups, have a wonderful musky-sweet fragrance. Since it is hardy to Zone 6, it can be enjoyed in many gardens. It shows off even more when combined with plants like Tulipa ‘Pink Impression’, Ornithogalum balansae, and pansies.
Jonquilla-type daffodils produce dark-green, narrow, often reedlike leaves, which are relatively easy to hide in the border while they mature, and there is usually more than one sweetly fragrant flower per stem. Probably the most fragrant of all, especially considering the size of the flowers, is N. ‘Baby Moon’, a precious, golden-yellow miniature daffodil.
This tender paperwhite is well-suited to forcing, blooming 4 to 5 weeks after planting. It produces 10 to 15 creamy-white flowers with pale-yellow centers on compact stems 8 to 10 inches tall, and exudes a mild, sweet fragrance.
This daffodil has large, long-lasting flowers that are a deep, sunny yellow with orange cups. Plant these in large groups for a specular mid-season show. Great for forcing indoors.
This tender paperwhite is well-suited to forcing, blooming 3 to 5 weeks after planting. Each 14- to 16-inch stem brings forth 5 to 10 white flowers with golden-yellow centers exuding a delicate fragrance. It may require staking.
This hardy paperwhite is well-suited to forcing, blooming 8 to 10 weeks after planting. It produces mildly musk-scented, white flowers with orange centers on stems 12 to 14 inches tall.
This miniature daffodil opens in very late spring. Its cup changes from yellow to white after the flowers open.
This tender paperwhite is well-suited to forcing, blooming 3 to 4 weeks after planting. It produces 10 to 15 white flowers per stem (12 to 14 inches tall) and exudes a musky fragrance.
This tender paperwhite is well-suited to forcing, blooming 6 to 10 weeks after planting. It produces 10 to 20 bright-yellow flowers with orange centers on stems 12 to 14 inches tall, and exudes a marvelously sweet fragrance.
Triandrus-type daffodils usually have one or two nodding flowers per stem and are noted for their wonderful, often fruity, fragrance. N. ‘Hawera’ (pre-1950, Zones 3–8) is a miniature triandrus-type daffodil with many elfin, pale-yellow nodding bells per stem, each with a demitasse-shaped cup surrounded by swept-back petals. This adaptable daffodil can grow in dry areas, in pots, in full sun, and in partial shade. It contrasts nicely with Muscari armeniacum and is exquisite with hellebores.
The newly opened blossoms of N. ‘Intrigue’ (1970, Zones 3–9) are a soft chartreuse-yellow. As they mature, however, the flowers become a luminous white and attract a lot of attention, especially when planted with a blood-red tulip like ‘Hollandia’. When combined with another soft-colored flower, like Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Lady Derby’, it creates a peaceful scene. An American-bred jonquilla-type daffodil with several flowers per stem, ‘Intrigue’ also has a wonderful fragrance.
This tender paperwhite is well-suited to forcing, blooming 3 to 5 weeks after planting. Each 16- to 20-inch stem brings forth 15 to 20 large, creamy-yellow flowers with pale-yellow centers. Its mild fragrance is sweet and musky.
Generally speaking, daffodils perform best in full sun and well-drained soil, in areas where there is a fair amount of rainfall in the fall and spring and where the summer is relatively dry. However, cyclamineus-type daffodils seem to tolerate at least partial shade and more moisture than others do. Narcissus ‘Jack Snipe’ (pre-1951, Zones 3–8) is a charming example of this type of daffodil. Its white petals are swept back, as if it were standing in front of a fan, and its medium-length, buttercup-yellow trumpet (or nose) sticks straight out at a 90 degree angle from the stem. ‘Jack Snipe’ is an intermediate-size daffodil, standing only 8 to 10 inches tall, and is perfect for a rock garden or the front of a flower border. This whole division of daffodils is becoming more popular not only because it tolerates some shade but also because the shape of the flower is so handsome.
This tender paperwhite is well-suited to forcing, blooming 3 to 4 weeks after planting. It produces very large, white flowers on stems 16 to 20 inches tall, and exudes a mildly sweet fragrance.
This tender paperwhite is well-suited to forcing, blooming 3 weeks after planting. It produces creamy white flowers with yellow centers on compact stems 12 to 14 inches tall, and exudes a mildly sweet fragrance.
Jonquilla-type daffodils produce dark-green, narrow, often reedlike leaves, which are relatively easy to hide in the border while they mature, and there is usually more than one sweetly fragrant flower per stem. Golden-yellow, sweetly fragrant, and a wonderful perennial, ‘Quail’ creates a special color echo with the golden center of the small tulip Tulipa bakeri ‘Lilac Wonder’.
Although some people don’t consider double or peonylike daffodils classics, many double hybrids have been in existence for a long time. N. ‘Tahiti’ (1956, Zones 3–8) has a soft-yellow flower with bright reddish-orange interior ruffles is reminiscent of a blossom from the tropics. ‘Tahiti’ stands up straight under its own weight, even on windy days. Its coloration is eye-catching, so it makes a big impact in the garden.
Narcissus ‘Accent’ has white petals and a funnel-shaped, salmon-pink cup whose color stays true.
Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ is a classic yellow trumpet-type daffodil and one of the earliest blooming. It can tolerate cold, snowy weather and it has a long blooming period. 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' combines nicely with early crocuses and dwarf irises.
Brightly colored, large-cupped, and reliable, Narcissus 'Serola' has vivid orange and yellow flowers that make it the perfect choice for roadside plantings, for gardens viewed from a distance, and for hot-colored garden schemes. It shows up even better with contrasting colors like the bright, beet-red Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Woodstock’, or as a color echo with Tulipa ‘American Dream’.
The species daffodil N. bulbocodium var. conspicuus (Zones 3–9) has been around so long that no one can actually put a date on it. Its look is unusual: It does have six golden petals, but they are tiny, twisted, and often difficult to see. Its prominent rounded cup gives rise to its nickname, hoop petticoats. It prefers acidic soil and when happy, will reseed, blooming like buttercups in groups. Only 4 to 6 inches tall, it naturalizes itself in many areas.
This Division 10 Bulbocodium species blooms late in the season, bearing up to 5 fragrant and nodding golden-yellow flowers. It has cylindrical, dark-green stems to 12 inches. It is good for naturalizing, and prefers neutral to alkaline soil.
This Tazetta/Division 10 daffodil is a species well-suited to forcing. It produces white clusters of up to 10 half-inch-wide blooms, which are strongly scented.
This tender Paperwhite is well-suited to forcing. It blooms in only two or three weeks from planting, bearing pure-white, musk-scented flowers atop 16 to 18 inch tall stems.
For later-blooming flowers with ornamental foliage, try Tulipa 'Carnaval de Nice'. It has grayish green foliage finely outlined in white and fragrant white-and-burgundy-feathered blooms. Its flower patterns and height are variable (ranging from 16 to 20 inches tall) but always eye-catching.
Tulipa ‘Charmeur’ features leaves with curled yellow edges and 18-inch-tall white-rimmed dark rosy blooms. The color combination may be a bit garish for some, but it will certainly brighten up container plantings in a drab doorway.
Tulipa 'Esperanto' has white-bordered leaves, but it is unique with its long-lasting deep rose red and dark green streaked flowers, which stand 10 to 12 inches tall.
Tulipa 'Garant' has striking yellow-framed leaves that are even more prominent when its 16- to 18-inch-tall sunny yellow flowers appear in midspring. Uniformity of color makes this an elegant, charismatic tulip in beds and borders.
Tulipa ‘New Design’ (1974) has pink-bordered leaves and silvery pink, 14- to 20-inch-tall blooms flushed yellow with pale fuchsia tips. This bulb is easygoing and long-lived.
Reaching 20 to 24 inches tall, Tulipa 'Silverstream' has chartreuse and yellow flowers suffused with red-and-rose markings that create a watercolor effect. The foliage has distinct cream-colored edging. Grouping these in a garden with a pastel palette would have driven Monet viridian with envy.
This named variety of the species has soft sulfur-yellow flowers up to 3 inches across. The spring blossoms sit 4-6 inches high, surrounded by wavy-edged, gray-green foliage that reaches 8-10 inches tall. Species tulips prefer sharp drainage and plenty of room to grow. Most do well in rock gardens, small displays, and containers.
The 12-inch-tall Tulipa 'Calypso' (1992) is known for being reliably perennial. It has decorative stippled leaves and large orange-red flowers rimmed with primrose and a black base.
Known for being reliably perennial, Tulipa ‘Oratorio’ (introduced in 1952) blooms in midspring and has splayed, flashy maroon-mottled leaves. It is a standout in the garden from the moment the exquisite heavily striped leaves emerge. Its dazzling 14- to 16-inch-tall coral pink flowers are an added bonus.
Tulipa 'Red Riding Hood' (introduced in 1953) is a true beauty, with flowers that are scarlet red inside, carmine outside, and black at the base. They float above richly striped foliage on 10- to 12-inch tall stems.
This species tulip blooms in mid- to late spring with fire-engine-red flowers that look like open, pointed stars with purple centers. It reaches 4-6 inches tall and not quite as wide. Species tulips prefer sharp drainage and plenty of room to grow; they will often naturalize. Most do well in rock gardens, small displays, and containers.
This bunch tulip has multiple orange-red flowers that bloom in spring above green leaves edged in creamy white. A species tulip, it is more likely to bloom in subsequent years. It reaches less than a foot tall and is stunning planted en masse.
This elephant ear has 2-foot-long, heart-shaped chartreuse leaves that flutter in the slightest breeze and seem to glow, even on cloudy days. It performs well in full sun and partial shade and doesn’t mind slightly acidic, rich, moist soil
The most familiar calla, this 3-foot-tall and 2-foot-wide plant has large white flowers—up to 10 inches long—that surround a creamy yellow fingerlike centerpiece. They bloom from late spring to mid-summer. The upright, arrow-shaped leaves are solid green and glossy.
These Mexican native bulbs actually offer demanding gardeners flowers on demand. They produce strappy foliage to 12 inches tall and clusters of buttery-yellow, starry, crocus-like blossoms two to three days after every rain in summer and early autumn. Or, if it doesn't rain, simply water and fertilize three days prior to your intended display, and the moisture will prompt the flowers to appear, hence the common name, rainflower. These bulbs are widely adaptable to diverse soil conditions, and may be grown in full sun to partial shade, but they prefer some shade.
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Deer resistant and dynamic, these bulbs provide color from the first showers of spring to the last leaves of fall
by Stephanie Cohen
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These vibrant bloomers give even the showiest annuals and perennials a run for their money
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Two experts pick their favorites based on color, shape
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Q&A Moving houseplants outdoors for the summer
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