And then there are tulips! I wish it were that easy. If it were, I would plant tons of them every year. But it is not. Deer, squirrels, voles, slugs, rabbits and who knows what else eat them above ground and below, before they bloom and after. Viruses and molds can maim and kill them. And if all of these things can be avoided, (by all sorts of techniques, maybe even including magic) they may or may not come back next year depending on the type you planted and the growing situations and the weather. Tulips are so unreliable as perennials that most professional gardeners I know treat them as annuals, planting in the fall and removing after bloom in the spring, which makes some sense considering that a bulb usually costs just over one dollar. [expand]
All the above being said, when they do come up, tulips are spectacular and the embodiment of spring to me. So if you do not have deer or voles or tons of squirrels, try some.
The Darwin Hybrids are the most reliable re-bloomers. One garden I planted with them about five years ago is still full of bloom in the spring. I have also had luck with the clusiana type and some others of the “miscellaneous” category. The other types, which are so beautiful and alluring, I plant with care and plan for them to come up next year, period. I have the type of gardens where their possible reappearance the next year will not affect the planting scheme. If they are going into a traditional bedding situation, however, they will be removed after blooming.
Tulips cannot be in wet soil in the winter and like to be in hot, dry soil for the summer. There are various ways to plant them to discourage voles and there are sprays for deer online, but if these animals are going to be a problem, one may try forcing bulbs to be used in the house. Instructions are online on many sites. I am not good at doing this and rely on local nurseries for potted tulips when I need them.
But there are other spectacular bulbs, which do come back, that the deer and voles do not like. There are many kinds of Allium from white to blue, purple, pink and yellow. Some are tiny and some have round heads the size of softballs and are as tall as 4’ (Do not plant one called “hair” though, or your garden next year will be covered with them and they are not that pretty). A large bed planted with Allium gigantieum or Ambadassor or White Giant is breathtaking and magical. Allium schubertii is only 1’ to 2’ but is one of my favorite plants. It looks like living fireworks. The smaller headed alliums are wonderful tucked in small groups into the garden almost anywhere.
Native to North America, camassia are late spring blooming beauties. They also tolerate pond edges and damp soil unlike other bulbs. They are 2’ to 3’ tall white, light blue to dark blue spikes of double or single star-shaped flowers. Spectacular!
Another favorite of mine is Bellevalia Pycnantha. It is 8” to 12” tall and has a very dark blue, almost black mucsari-like flower. Extremely eye-catching in the garden. But even more eye catching is Nectaroscordum Siculum. What a plant!! I cannot do it justice with words. You must look it up. Even better, plant one. And these repeat and get bigger and better with the years.
There are many other types of spring flowering bulbs that I have not mentioned, I have only mentioned my favorites and the ones with which I am most familiar.
When the winter starts ebbing, we will be looking for flowers and now is the time to plant.