CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, irises, tulips, alliums ... it's time to round up the usual suspects. Don't forget to add some new characters to the lineup this fall as well.
The end of summer marks the beginning of bulb-buying season. The catalogs and emails roll in, and the garden centers start to stock up on many varieties. Many of the bulbs come from Holland, and I recommend buying the biggest bulbs that fit into your budget, as they will produce bigger flowers, and more of them, in their first year.
Plant when the soil cools this fall, and please don't plant them in rows! Bulbs are best when naturalized, and the best way to get a natural look is to toss the bulbs onto the ground and plant 'em where they fall. The only exception, in my humble opinion, is when they line a sidewalk in a formal setting.
When searching for "animal-resistant bulbs," alliums pop up as a popular suggestion. Also known as flowering onion, they are largely immune to deer, mice, chipmunks and voles. Many of these may self-sow in the garden. Tuck them among clumps of summer-flowering perennials so the fading foliage will be hidden.
I like "Drumstick" (Allium sphaerocephalon) that blooms in late June with one-inch, wine-colored flower heads on 24- to 30-inch stems.
There are many varieties available at www.hollandbulbfarms.com.
If you want something different, consider fritillaria. But know that while it's interesting and beautiful, it has some negatives. It has a rather disagreeable scent I've heard referred to as "foxy," "like feces" or "like wet fur." Hmmm. Be sure to put these at the far side of the garden!
Fritillaria (or Crown Imperials, as they are also called) are unique-looking tall plants, which make quite the statement in the mid-spring garden. Their bell-shaped blooms hang upside-down from the green "crown" of foliage at the top of the plant. These plants are extremely resistant to deer and rodents and some people claim that just their presence keeps these pests away from surrounding bulbs and plants as well!