For gardeners, autumn is bulb planting time. Accompanied by visions of how spring will look when daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and crocuses open their colorful blooms, we fill our borders and containers with these deceptively unexciting little packages. But as well as new varieties of old favorites, why not widen the net and try something completely different for next spring? Many more unusual bulbs are reasonably priced yet give so much. Glamorous colors and shapes light up the greenhouse or garden, and there’s the excitement of discovering their origin, habitat and how to coax them into bloom.
My love affair with plants that grow from bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes started back in the 1970s when, as a teenager, I spent my Saturdays working in our local pet and garden shop. Every autumn, boxes of bulbs would be delivered, and the boss had usually ordered a few unusual kinds. This is how I first came nose to nose with the large, foxy-smelling bulbs of Fritillaria imperialis – and ended up taking some home in lieu of pay. Watching their 3ft (1m) stems of nodding orange flowers topped by green bracts develop, I was soon hooked.
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September 19, 2020