Marianne Binetti

Don’t limit your choices when planting spring-blooming bulbs

Tulips, daffodils and crocus are classic spring bloomers but also look for minor bulbs such as cyclamen, which come in all the traditional Valentine’s Day colors.
Tulips, daffodils and crocus are classic spring bloomers but also look for minor bulbs such as cyclamen, which come in all the traditional Valentine’s Day colors. TNS

Fall is for planting bulbs if you want to enjoy a many splendored spring.

We live in a perfect climate for growing spring-flowering bulbs that require a cool winter before they will bloom. Tulips, daffodils and crocus are classic bloomers that announce the start of the spring season.

But don’t limit yourself to just these. Look for minor bulbs such as anemone, snowdrops and cyclamen.

The most important planting tip for all bulbs is to pick a spot with good drainage. This means raised beds or areas with a slight slope. Don’t plant bulbs in low spots or where water collects from drain spouts or rain runoff.

Question. The deer ate my tulip buds last spring just as they were getting ready to bloom. Is it true deer will not bother daffodils? P.P. Puyallup

Answer. Yes, daffodils are poisonous to not only deer but also to underground rodents.

Plant a variety of different daffodils to extend the bloom season. Dwarf daffodils such as February Gold and Tete a Tete start the show by flowering in February, followed by the large cupped classic trumpet daffodils such as King Alfred and closing the season with the fragrant white poet’s narcissi, such as the elegant Pheasant’s Eye.

Q. What bulbs will do well in the shade? I have a mostly wooded garden with mossy areas that I want to plant with spring color. C.B., Maple Valley

A. Just say no to tulips and head toward the hyacinthoides.

This deer-and-rodent-resistant family of bulbs includes the wood hyacinths, panish bluebells and what previously were known as Scilla.

Botanists keep changing the genus names of this determined-to-flower bulbs but Scilla is one of the few spring-flowering bulbs that prefers a bit of shade. You might get foliage and no flowers in deep shade, however. The garden gossip on this prolific bulb is that it does some bed hopping as it spreads gradually into larger drifts as the years go by.

A planting of wood hyacinths can turn your woodlands into an enchanted forest of deep blue, purple or white bell-shaped blooms but after the flower show the strappy leaves can look a bit messy.

The trick is to use hosta, brunnera or other perennials with huge leaves to spread out over the fading foliage of the past-their-prime bluebells.

Q. I am working at adding more native plants to my landscape, both to make the pollinators happy and to create a sustainable garden. Can you tell me the name of the spring-flowering native bulb with tall stems and blue flowers? W., Tacoma

A. You must mean the native Camassia or quamash, a 2-foot-tall spring bloomer native to the mountain meadows of the Cascade Mountains.

This deer-and-rodent-resistant bulb was an important food source for Native Americans and the early pioneers. Now you can order the bulbs from commercial growers in the Netherlands so native meadows will not be damaged by plant poachers.

The camassia is blue in the wild but the starry flowers now also come in pink, white and a shorter variety with variegated foliage called Camassia Blue Melody.

Unlike most spring-flowering bulbs the Camassia likes a bit of moisture in the soil, even during the summer months. Casmassia bulbs can be found for sale at local garden centers now or you can order the different varieties from a bulb grower online.

Time to spread the garden gossip on this native plant. Camassia blooms, although tall, colorful and impressive don’t last very long. Mine were in flower for less than a week last spring but the yellowing foliage persisted for months.

Reach Marianne Binetti through her website at or write to her at P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw WA 98022.