Planting bulbs in the fall is a well-honored tradition for many. They can be easily installed up until Thanksgiving. Plant at the proper depth for the particular type of bulb, add soil conditioner if your soil is unimproved, and add food such as Bulb Tone. If your soil is composed of heavy clay or otherwise does not drain easily, you might want to add something to promote drainage, such as chicken grit or very fine gravel to the bottom of each bulb hole (chicken grit is pulverized granite that is used by birds to aid in digestion. It is available at Southern States/Turf Center). Bulbs placed in soil that stays too moist will rot easily. If you have a problem with squirrels digging up your bulbs, try sprinkling some of the grit on the soil surface after planting, and/or place some black fine netting over the planting area. Bulbs are very economical. Some bulbs, however, such as tulips, are short-lived, so there’s always a need for new bulbs. This fall, why not try some new varieties beyond the traditional daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips. Here are a few that are deer resistant:Scilla. Siberian squill are 6-8” tall plants that naturalize easily. They sport unusual bell-shaped flowers that bloom for 2-3 weeks in March and April. They should be planted in masses or loose drifts Allium. Alliums (Ornamental Onions) produce eye-catching globe-shaped flowers that really stand out in the garden. They come in a variety of sizes and hues, and they bloom at different times, but the most striking are tall with large globes. They look good either in groups or singly as a punctuation mark. There are other interesting shaped Alliums. A favorite is ‘Shubertii’, which sports huge (12-18” in diameter) firecracker blooms of striking pink flowers during late spring. Iris reticulata. Dwarf irises are fragrant low-growing varieties that bloom from February through late March, and they multiply rapidly. They come in various shades of blue, yellow, and purple, and they are great tucked into garden beds that are otherwise occupied with flowering plants in spring or summer. A favorite is Iris histroides ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ with powder standards and golden yellow crest on falls. Narcissus ‘Hawera’. While daffodils are the go-to spring bulb for naturalizing in areas where deer browse, they are, frankly, everywhere and tend to blend in with the scenery. Add some interest, particularly in areas that will be viewed at close range, with a miniature type – Triandrus. ‘Hawera’ is an outstanding late spring flowering miniature Narcissus, that produces many pale, yellow nodding flowers per slender stem. It would particularly grace your house entrance area with its sweet fruity fragrant blooms.
Photo credits: Allium ‘Globe Master’: Thebloomingauction.com; Allium shubertii: allanbecker-gardenguru.squarespace.com; Narcissus hawara: finegardening.com; Scilla siberica: humphreysgarden.com; Iris histroides ‘Katharine Hodgkin’: Connie Bowers