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Inexpensive bulbs for spring

Q: I’d like to buy some spring bulbs other than daffodils and tulips, but I don’t have a lot of money to spend. Can you recommend a few inexpensive bulbs for spring?

Margaret Brand, Hardy, VA

A: John E. Bryan, author of the encyclopedia Bulbs and publisher of a monthly garden newsletter, replies: Many spring-flowering bulbs are good buys and are just as beautiful and long lasting as daffodils and tulips.

For buttercup yellow flowers in late spring, try golden star (Triteleia ixiodes, USDA Hardiness Zones 7–11), which blooms on 20-inch-tall stems. The starry flowers of this California and Oregon native last for many weeks. Plant these bulbs 5 inches deep in a sunny spot with good drainage. Wild hyacinth (T. hyacinth­ina), which likes similar conditions, is also a great plant. Taller than T. ixiodes and with white flowers, it is floriferous and easy to grow. Triteleia sell for about $5 for 10 bulbs and $20 for 50 bulbs.

The daisylike flowers of Grecian windflowers (Anemone blanda and cvs., Zones 4–8) produce a 6-inch-high carpet of color in spring. Pink, white, and blue shades are available. All love full sun and have attractive, fernlike foliage; they should be planted 1 to 2 inches deep. Anemones will grow in a wide range of soils, but they prefer a sandy soil that is rich in organic matter. Cultivars of Anemone blanda cost about $5 for 10 bulbs or $20 for 50 bulbs.

Glory of the snow (Chionodoxa spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9) will often peek above the snow in early spring. Two outstanding and dependable species are Chionodoxa forbesii and C. luciliae, whose blue-and-white flowers are small but numerous on each 4- to 6-inch-tall stem. For pink varieties that are just as charming, try C. forbesii ‘Pink Giant’ or ‘Rosea’. Plant glory of the snow 3 inches deep in good garden soil, and leave the bulbs to multiply, lifting and dividing only when overcrowding occurs. Chionodoxa varieties sell at an average price of $3 for 10 bulbs or $12 for 50 bulbs, with named cultivars costing slightly more.

For the widest variety and availability of the bulbs mentioned, visit Brent and Becky’s Bulbs at www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com. To buy in bulk at wholesale prices, visit Van Engelen at www.vanengelen.com. Expect nursery selections to be slightly more expensive.

Grecian windflower. Illlustrations: Haley Aselin Graves. Click to enlarge image Grecian windflower. Illlustrations: Haley Aselin Graves.
Wild hyacinth. Click to enlarge image Wild hyacinth.
Glory of the snow. Click to enlarge image Glory of the snow.
From Fine Gardening 105, pp. 74