Browsing new cultivars of plants in garden centers can be exciting and those with unusual blooms or growth habits spark the imagination and offer new possibilities in garden design. However, if it is reliable, low maintenance garden beauty you’re after, I suggest you add a few tried-and-true varieties of bulbs to your garden plan.
Some bulbs are so hardy that they have been passed down for generations and because many self-propagate, gardeners often have plenty to share. This is a great reason to get to get to know your bulb growing neighbors! Plants that have performed well in their gardens may just do the same in yours.
Reliable old varieties can sometimes be obtained in surprising ways. Years ago, my husband and I built a house on “family” land. Unfortunately, the spot we chose for a large flower bed had poor soil and no nearby source of water. (My hubby and I like a challenge!)
Sadly, many of the plants we purchased for that bed did not survive their first year at our place.
Fortunately, there was an unoccupied homestead on the property and, as is often the case, the old house was surrounded by long forgotten flower beds full of hardy bulbs. Snowbells, grape hyacinths, spider lilies and numerous varieties of daffodils, crinums and daylilies had not only survived but thrived and multiplied since my grandmother had “moved into town” nearly 40 years earlier.
My favorite find was a patch of iris with blooms in a rainbow of colors planted along the fence line, no doubt by Margaret Lula Perdue herself.
I spent the first few years in our new home watching these beds to see what turned up and moving a variety of bulbs to my own garden. The transplants were tough and dependable and, with the addition of cannas from a neighbor’s garden, we ultimately had a succession of colorful blooms throughout the growing season with little effort from yours truly.
If you do not yet have a friend with plants to share or if, like most people, you do not have an abandoned garden to scavenge, look for online plant forums or local plant swap groups on social media.
Gardeners are notoriously generous with resources as well as knowledge and they love to network. In fact, the sense of community that comes from connecting with others with a common interest is one of the many health benefits of gardening!
If you wish to purchase bulbs that perform well in East Texas, a huge selection is available each fall during Bulbs to Blooms, a conference and bulb sale presented by the Smith County Master Gardeners (SCMG). Information on the bulb sale as well as SCMG may be found online at txmg.org/smith.
With so many resources available, searching for tried-and-true bulbs can be a lot of fun. May your efforts be rewarded with lovely, easy-care blooms for years to come!
(The Smith County Master Gardener program is a volunteer organization in connection with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.)