You may still be reveling in the last days of summer now, but rest assured in about 6 months you will overjoyed to see those first signs of life emerging from the cold frozen ground. If you want that pleasure later, you must act now. It is no coincidental happenstance of nature that right before Easter weekend there will be masses of daffodils, tulips and other spring bulbs in our markets. These are what the industry calls 'forced' and millions in time and money goes into the resources required to 'fake out' plants and trick them into this perfect cooperation. It is, quite frankly, a very un-green business that requires refrigerating bulbs and then warming them just in time to make them bloom around our holiday schedules.
All around cities you will see these bulbs, and of course, we will all buy them because (believe me, I get it) we will be in desperate need of a sunny green fix after too many dark and cold days. Besides the green-conscientious drawbacks, I find that the selection of these plants is sorely lacking. You basically get yellow daffodils, mini-daffodils, grape hyacinths, regular hyacinths in purple and pink, and tulips (probably red, yellow, and white if you are lucky - nothing more). But the world of spring flowering plants is vastly wider than this narrow selection, and they can be had with just a little bit of forethought.
To be clear - If you want to have some exciting spring bloomers, you have to buy the bulbs now, plant them now and then let nature take control of the whole chilling and then warming thing (so much more environmentally friendly).
There is another good reason for buying now (besides being more enviromentally friendly and better seleciton) -- it's price.....bulbs are a fraction of cost of forced plants. So, with that, here are some of my favorite places to order bulbs as well as my picks for some of their most exciting selections for 2012.
Old House Gardens - This seller of the unique, the precious and the rare is a joy to shop from. Even if you don't buy, I like just being on their email list - what you get is totally old school and oozing with their passion for finding and sharing rare bulbs. I'm lusting after the Allium sphaerocephalum, (PURPLE-HEADED GARLICK) and the Gladiolus byzantinus 'Cruentus' (BYZANTINE GLADIOLUS).
Brent and Becky's has one of the best reputations around for bulb growers (from people in the know). They get it from being consistent and for shipping the most healthy and generous bulbs. This year I am obsessing over
Eremurus 'Orange Marmelade', Tulipa 'Shirley', and Tulipa 'Sensual touch'. (as usual, I have an orange obsession).
Color Blends is a wholesale grower that (so long as you can meet the minimum $60 spend) anyone can buy from. Their catalogs are always organized in both a handy and visually interesting rainbow of colors and they encourage you to play with blending the vast array of bulbs available.
This year, I am dreaming about planting Narcissis Thalia and Allium Unifolium. I think they would make a great bouquet....but I recognize that this might be a pipe dream given one is a late season bloomer and one is a mid season bloomer. (...a girl can dream...)
And lastly, I must mention John Scheepers. I have, over the years, ordered thousands of bulbs from them. They were my go to source for all my big projects back in my landscaping days. Easy ordering, competitive pricing, and a reliable product. I have never found them particularly inspirational, but they are rock solid for all the standard selection -- and by standard, I mean 100 times more than you will be be able to get next spring in the market.
(Images: Old House Gardens, Brent and Becky's Bulbs, and Color Blends.