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You can spend a lot of money buying spring-flowering bulbs–a lot of money. Just think about the annual tulip show at Duke Gardens, or Biltmore’s Festival of Flowers–and imagine what all those bulbs cost.
But I am not one of American’s wealthiest, so I start out with a budget–
Here’s how a spent my 100 dollar bulb budget this year:
1) I focused, deciding where my bulbs and my money would go. Setting priorities is hard, and it’s taken a lot of practice, but bulbs are small. You need a large number to make an impact. (I’m on a budget, remember? Amazing how those lovely catalogs make it so easy to forget)
2) Since I’m focusing my resources in my new woods beds, I picked bulbs I knew would do well in those conditions. I also tried to visualize my new purchases in the rougher ground under trees and shrubs and pick things that would bloom at different times in the Spring and extend the season of interest.
3) Where you buy your bulbs matters. I steer clear of impulse buys in big box stores and order from reputable bulb companies. Terra Ceia in Pantego Nc is a favorite, and where I placed this year’s order. Their quality is high–their prices are low and shipping is reasonable–just 12.50 total.
4) I picked just 3 varieties. Yes, it was hard. But think about the woods, picture them in your mind. Great swaths of plants, right? Not two of these, 5 of that. I planned for woodsy clumps and bought:
- 50 FEBRUARY GOLD DAFFODIL–The second daffodil to bloom in my woods and very welcome every year. I love it. It likes my Southern Garden and seems to fit in the woods–not fussy or frilly.
- 50 SPANISH BLUEBELLS–(Hyacinthoides hispanica ) Another plant that looks like it belongs in the woods. Makes beautiful blue clumps. Spreads. Great in a small vase.
- 50 TREVITHIAN DAFFODIL. An old fashioned Jonquil, it’s a clear lemon yellow with a wonderful fragrance. I have a small clump out front and I’ve always wanted more. So while I may not be getting EVERYthing I want this year, I’m an getting something I’ve always wanted.
It’s still more than a month until blub planting time, but this is the best time to order (before the popular varieties run out). So Blog-partner Melissa and I made a pact–order our spring bulbs today or at least this weekend.
We’ll keep you posted–literally.
I like to buy local when ever possible , but for the best selection and price, I always order my bulbs from companies that specialize. I have three favorites and the top one is almost local–
Terra Ceia farms is in Pantego NC (East of Greenville). Their selection is not the largest–but their bulbs are huge, in great condition–not bruised or soft. Their prices are great and so is their customer service. If you have a question, or problem, call. A real person answers the phone. www.terraceiafarms.com
John Scheepers in Bantam Connecticut–Great catalog, 87 pages of full color pictures makes for wonderful browsing. Only problem is–you’ll want to try everything. But if I’m looking for a certain bulb or want to try something new, Scheepers is where I shop. www.johnscheepers.com
Van Engelen is the wholesale arm of Scheepers. www.vanengelen.com
fewer varieties but if you buy in bulk, the prices are better. There’s a 50 dollar minimum, which make a nice segue into my next little list–
Tips for buying bulbs
1) Set a budget. Everything looks so appealing and fresh, it’s really, really easy to get out of control. And once that budget is set, don’t spread it two thinly. Bulbs are small. You need to grow big patches. So if you only want to spend 50 bucks, buy one of two varieties instead of 5. You’ll be happier in the long run.
2) Plan where you’re going to plant you bulbs before you order them. Make a short wish list, then walk around the yard and figure out where your bulbs can go. I like to take winter photos of bare spots that can use bulbs, them reference them in the fall.
3) Pick varieties that do well in the South and will come back year after year. That’s another reason the local company tops my list of suppliers. They are not going to sell me something that isn’t really happy here. And there are lots of bulbs that don’t come back it my garden. I’ve given up on: Snow drops, big globe Allium, double daffodils, Darwin and triumph tulips.
Here’s what I grown instead.
Daffodils–My first is Rijnveld’s Early Sensation. My last Hawera. I grow lots of other varieties in between like February Gold, Ice follies, Actaea and Geranium.
Spanish Hyacinth–If you have woods, fill them with Hyacinthoides hispanica or the Spanish bluebell. They are stunning, great cut flowers and multiply.
Summer Snowflake or Leucojum. Lovely arching stems. White and green bell flowers. I plant them in patches at the base of trees and never have enough.
Species tulips. These are the only truly perennial tulips in the South. Small and dainty. Great in a vase.
Ipheion or Star flower. Blooming blue carpets in March. Seeds and spreads.
The list could go on…and on. There are many more bulbs that will work in the South–It’s just that I’m on a budget. So please, share your bulb orders with us. Let us know what works at your house. I always want to try something new.
A note about buying bulbs locally: Dickenson’s in Chapel Hill, and Stone Brothers and Byrd in Durham have the best selection if you want to buy in a store. I also like the Southern States in Carrboro. I would stay away from the big box stores. Their bulbs tend to be small. Bigger bulbs make bigger flowers. Bigger flowers make happier gardeners.