Naturalizing Bulbs

Planting Bulbs That Last!

We all know fall is the time to plant those bulbs for spring flowers. Most of our favorite bulbs will bloom a year, maybe three if you are fortunate and then die, never to return. However, there a group of bulbs that naturalize, meaning they acclimate to our harsher New England weather patterns and with the proper care and conditions, return year after year.

Over the years, this column has covered the Narcissus family, along with grape hyacinths, extensively as naturalizers, and indeed, this columnist has planted literally thousands of mixed Narcissus/daffodils  in and around Pelham with the Pelham Preservation and Garden Society that still return every spring despite being cut back to early and receiving little or no care.

In addition to the bulbs above, there are groups of smaller woodland bulbs that naturalize as well. These bloom from early February weather permitting) to as late as April. Woodland bulbs tend to be smaller and less showy than daffodils and though not so well suited for viewing from afar, are ideal for smaller more intimate garden areas.


A plethora of little bulbs is superb from late February or early March into early May, like

·         the common Galanthus nivalis and its sturdier counterpart, G. elwesii

·         the apple-green-leaved G. ikariae,

·         Spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum)

·         winter aconite (Eranthis hiemalis). Its yellow flowers are a bright grace note to the spring woods. Scilla

·         Chionodoxa

·         grape hyacinths.

·         Guinea hen flower(Fritillaria meleagris)

·         Shade Tolerant Crocus tommasiniannus.

·         C. tommasinianus ‘Taplow Ruby’ and ‘Whitwell Purple’,

These can be ordered individually from specialty growers or in woodland groups from growers like Van Bourgiendien and Burpee seed. If you want some free samples of naturalizing woodland bulbs, come to Franklin Field Saturday, October 4th ,between 8:30 and 11:00 am where representatives from Greener by Design will be giving samples  away with more information on fall planting.

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