Bulbs, including corms, tubers and rhizomes, which are swollen underground stems, will enhance your garden with color in all seasons. They may surprise you with a bloom or seem to take forever to bloom. No matter what season you want to brighten in your garden there are bulbs that you will enjoy.
It takes a little planning and effort ahead of time to get the special effect that you want. Spring- and winter–blooming bulbs need to be planted in the fall. Many of them benefit from the cool soil of winter. Summer bloomers can usually be planted in spring and some may need to be dug up in the fall for protection from the cool soil.
Living in Zone 8 does limit our selection of bulbs somewhat. The soil does not freeze deeply or for an extended time. If you love tulips, you may find that you need to plant new bulbs every fall because they need an extended cooling period in order to bloom. Bulbs that you purchase each year will have experienced the cooling needed to help them bloom. For consistent blooming, tulips are best treated as annuals in Zone 8.
We all have our favorite bulbs and so do critters. Certain varieties, like lilies, hyacinths, and tulips, are more tempting to deer, rabbits, and voles than are daffodils (narcissus), snowdrops, crocus, alliums and Spanish bluebells. There are deterrents available and you may find that planting in a container reduces the plant loss to animals. These spring bloomers along with some natives like trout lily, bloodroot, trillium, bleeding heart, and Virginia Bluebells are also good choices.
Winter bloomers are a bit more limited, but paperwhite narcissus are a fragrant choice. You may want to plant aconite, early blooming snowdrops, and some crocus near your usual pathway as their blooms are small. They are a nice reminder that warmer weather will be here soon.
In early Fall, you may expect the surprise of Lycoris - the spider lily - stem and flower to appear. Following the bloom will come foliage that will stay through winter. Fall-blooming crocus are another favorite and a nice addition in the garden.
Summer is the time that you can enjoy some tropical and subtropical bulbs that will need to be dug at the end of the season and protected. With care, they will be healthy and ready to plant again the following summer. If you prefer to just enjoy blooms year after year, there is a wide range of lilies and iris, cannas and caladium, gladiolas and crocosmia.
Always remember to purchase good quality bulbs. Smaller, lesser quality bulbs will result in smaller and fewer blooms. There are times when that is acceptable such as when using bulbs to naturalize an area, but for gardens near the entrance to your home, you will enjoy having large healthy bloomers to greet you at your doorway. Enjoy your bulbs all year long!