2014-11-13 / From The Garden

Time to Plant Lilies, Tulips and Hyacinths

By Cynthia Gibson


Among the most attractive muscari is the French blue- colored variety. These delightful hyacinths have various names; look for “Azura,” “Blue Cloud,” “Peppermint,” “Finis,” or “Lady Blue.” Among the most attractive muscari is the French blue- colored variety. These delightful hyacinths have various names; look for “Azura,” “Blue Cloud,” “Peppermint,” “Finis,” or “Lady Blue.” There is still time to plant bulbs for springtime bloom. I hope you have all been “Daffy” and planted lots of daffodils. Because there has not been frost yet, it is not too late to plant bulbs of any type: tulips, hyacinths, grape hyacinths, or lilies (lilium).

Take advantage of the bulb sales, catalog sales, and nursery closeouts. Agway in Portsmouth is one of the best go-to places for a rich supply of bulbs of all sorts. They are sorted by size, color, and variety. Some you pick out individually, others come in boxes, and other unnamed bulbs come in net bags. The large bags of bulbs are perfect if you just want color and an instant bed for the spring!


Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Lilies are another must to plant this time of year. Go for the new double lilies and, if you can find one, a “Miss Lucy,” the first double ever developed.

For those who love the fragrance of lilium, your best bet is an Oriental lily. Not only does it have the sweetest perfume, but it is very tall and one bulb can rebloom for up to 13 years before weakening.

Full-sized hyacinths are beautiful and have a very pungent fragrance that you either love or hate. Like Lily of the Valley, they are a true fragrance of spring. Hyacinths now come in amazing colors from strong purples to yellow, deep blues and almost black. For the typical colors, our local nurseries have ample supplies. If you want more exotic and colorful flowers, you must go to the catalogs or online stores. John Scheepers is one of the best bulb suppliers in America. It is a tried and true company with a huge selection, excellent choices and very good bulbs, service, price and delivery. For specialty bulbs, I would be remiss not to mention Old House Gardens online. They sell heirloom or heritage varieties; the bulbs are huge and you will not be disappointed.

The smaller grape hyacinth, or muscari, should not be overlooked. Named for their similarity to a bunch of grapes, they have clumping flowers and come in a variety of colors including lavender, purples, pinks and white. There is a deep purple black variety that almost fades into a turquoise color; a single bloom can produce three shades of blue.

Tulips are always a welcome sight in spring. It is fun to pick out colors that have a different shade on the inside of the flower close to the stem. Sometimes the interior splotch is black, purple, deep blue, red, or white. The hybrids that have been developed are mindboggling. They are ruffled, fringed, crinkled (like parrot tulips), very smooth, or pointed. The combinations are endless, so there is bound to be a tulip out there just for you!

Last, but not least, is the crocus, often celebrated as the first flower of spring. They are still available in stores and should be planted by the bucket loads. The crocus is a native of Crete and the stamens from the Sativus crocus can be dried to produce saffron. We can even grow it in Rhode Island. You will only need about 150 flowers to make one gram of dried saffron.

Regardless of your choice of bulb, this is the time to plant it.

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