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Top Ten Bulbs to Plant Now for a Romantic Spring Garden

by Sally Ferguson

For gardeners of all stripes, spring is a particularly romantic time of the year. As the season warms and days lengthen, winter succumbs to the intoxicating earthy scent of spring.

Flower bulbs, of course, are the archetypical spring flower. With this in mind, an informal panel of Dutch flower bulb experts met recently to decide which tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and crocus, in their opinion, are the "most romantic" bulb flowers.

Best of the Best Romantic Bulbs

Following are the top ten spring bloomers the experts deemed "most romantic," courtesy of the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center in New York City. All are top-performers in the home garden.


Hyacinthus 'Splendid Cornelia'

The shade of violet-pink seen in H. 'Splendid Cornelia' is often described as mauve but that's only the beginning of this hyacinth's unusual coloration. Its flared florets are also enriched with deep blue veins

and its stem is not green but burgundy! Hyacinths require well-drained soil. They will flower longer in areas that are somewhat shady. Sizes 15-16 cm. and 16-17 cm. are best for garden planting.

Hyacinth 'Splendid Cornelia'
USDA zones 4-8
Color: Pastel lilac with richly colored, contrasting pastel florets
Notes: highly fragrant, sweet fresh scent, effective planted in groups
Flowering period: early mid-season
Average height: 10 inches (25 cm.)
Planting depth: 8 inches (20 cm.)
Spacing: 6 inches (15 cm.)
Light: full sun to partial shade
Best uses: beds and borders.

Tulipa 'Passionale'

T. 'Passionale' is one of the popular recent (1983) hybrids of the early and late single tulips called Triumphs. A medium-tall, mid-season bloomer, it produces sturdy stems with a large flower of purple petals with darker purple flames on the exterior, and a red-purple wash on the interior. Wet, windy weather during its flowering period will have little effect on 'Passionale'. Plant these versatile tulips in containers or flower beds, or force them indoors. They are also excellent as cut flowers.

Tulip 'Passionale'
USDA zones 3-7
Color: deep lilac to dark plum with small cream base - one of the best purples
Notes: long lasting flower with beautiful shape
Flowering period: mid-season
Average height: 10-16 inches (25-40 cm.)
Planting depth: 8 inches (20 cm.)
Spacing: 2-4 inches (5-10 cm.)
Light: Full sun
Best uses: beds, borders, as cut flowers and for forcing.

Narcissus 'Bridal Crown'

N. 'Bridal Crown' (circa 1940s) is romance with all the frills. Award-winning 'Bridal Crown' has double flowers with multiple creamy-white petals interspersed with saffron-yellow cup segments. Double narcissi usually have one flower to a stem, but occasionally may have more. In contrast to other narcissi, double narcissi should not be cut until they are entirely open.

Double Narcissus 'Bridal Crown'
USDA zones 4-9
Color: white-yellow
Notes: highly fragrant, can be forced indoors for winter bloom
Flowering period: mid-season
Average height: 10-12 inches (25-30 cm.)
Planting depth: 6 inches (12.5 cm.)
Spacing: 2-3 inches (5-7.5 cm.)
Light: full sun to full shade
Best uses: narcissi are suitable for almost every possible application: fields, beds, containers, borders, rock gardens, as cut flowers and for forcing.

Hyacinthus 'Lady Derby'

A Dutch favorite available since 1883, H. 'Lady Derby' continues to be one of the most distinctive pinks in the flower world. Grow it for this feature alone! One great planting combination: pink 'Lady Derby' underplanted with Anemone blanda 'Blue Shades', a mix of light to dark blue daisy-like flowers only four inches tall. Hyacinths require well-drained soil. They will flower longer in areas that are somewhat shady. Sizes 15-16 cm. and 16-17 cm. are best for garden planting.

Hyacinth 'Lady Derby'
USDA zones 4-8
Color: pink
Flowering period: early mid-season
Notes: heady spring fragrance
Average height: 10 inches (25 cm.)
Planting depth: 8 inches (20 cm.)
Spacing: 6 inches (15 cm.)
Light: full sun to partial shade
Best uses: beds and borders in groups of 3-5 or more, larger geometric plantings.


Narcissus cyclamineus 'Jetfire'

N. 'Jetfire' is not your Great Aunt Tillie's daffodil. Think of the colors and styles of 1966, the year it was introduced, and you've got the general idea. Cyclamineus narcissi such as 'Jetfire' are among the early-birds

of spring. 'Jetfire' can withstand heavy partial shade, all but the wettest soil, comes back year after year and, as if that weren't enough, often produces more than one flower per bulb.

Narcissus 'Jetfire'
USDA zones 4-9
Color: petals are yellow; trumpet is red-orange
Notes: jaunty and prolific with flared-back perianth petals, an excellent naturalizer, tolerates shade and damper soil conditions
Flowering period: early mid-season
Average height: 10-14 inches (25-35 cm.)
Planting depth: 5 inches (12.5 cm.) or deeper
Spacing: 2 inches (5 cm.)
Light: full sun to full shade
Best uses: beds, borders and rock gardens,

Crocus chrysanthus 'Romance'

For gardeners in 1973, the introduction of this soft yellow harbinger of spring led to love at first sight. Plant in bunches of 10 or more. For best effect, plant in combination with crocuses in pastel or bright colors. Crocuses need well-drained soil. Their tight cup-shaped flowers with six petals open wide in the sun.

Crocus 'Romance'
USDA zones 3-8
Color: petals have warm yellow interior and buff yellow exterior
Notes: tolerates shade and damper soil conditions, naturalizes readily
Flowering period: early season
Average height: 3-5 inches (7.5-12.5 cm.)
Planting depth: 5 inches (12.5 cm.)
Spacing: 1 inch (2.5 cm.)
Light: full sun to partial shade
Best uses: borders, rock gardens, in lawns, under shrubs and trees, in pots,


Tulipa 'Queen of Night'

T. 'Queen of Night', christened in 1944, is still considered top contender for the title of "blackest" tulip (though its color is actually a very dark, deep velvety maroon). Single Late tulips, such as 'Queen of Night', are prized for

their classic tulip shape (rectangular cup-shape with petals that are flat across the tops). 'Queen of Night' is superb in cut flower arrangements. In the garden, plant it in groups of 25 to 50 or in combination with pastel tulips.

Tulip 'Queen of Night'
USDA zones 3-8
Color: deep velvety maroon (mahogany)
Notes: still considered by many to be the most "black" of all tulips, stunning planted in groups, aristocratic bearing
Flowering period: late season
Average height: 22-30 inches (55-75 cm.)
Planting depth: 8 inches (20 cm.)
Spacing: 4 inches (10 cm.)
Light: full sun
Best uses: borders, container, perennial beds, cut flowers.


Tulipa 'Angélique'

Introduced in 1959, the peony-flowered T. 'Angélique' is blush-pink and has a particularly long-lasting bloom life in the garden or vase. A Double Late tulip, it grows to 18-inches tall and blooms late in the season. Some say it has a

delicate scent reminiscent of a rose. The ultimate in romantic tulips, it combines beautifully with the deep green or purple foliage of Heuchera. It also makes a perfect complement to "black" tulips, such as 'Queen of Night'.

Tulip 'Angelique'
USDA zones 3-7
Color: blush-pink
Notes: large, peony-like flowers with delicate rose pink coloration, long lasting bloom in the garden and in the vase
Flowering period: late season
Average height: 12-18 inches (30-45 cm.)
Planting depth: 8 inches (20 cm.) for large bulbs
Spacing: 3 inches (7.5 cm.)
Light: full sun to partial shade
Best uses: beds, borders and cut flowers.


Tulipa 'Ballerina'

For absolute perfection, this exquisite Lily-flowered tulip, introduced in 1980, is top of the charts. It is truly the sum of its parts: flower shape (lily-pointed petals in a slim, elegant flower); color (luminous tangerine orange);

and height (long willowy stems). Because they are remarkably tall, plant these beauties in a wind-protected location. A wonderful addition to any cut flower garden.

Tulip 'Ballerina'
USDA zones 3-8
Color: overall color is tangerine-orange: petal exterior is flamed in scarlet, edged in orange/yellow; interior is marigold orange with a yellow base
Notes: tall stems, willowy shape
Flowering period: late season
Average height: 18-22 inches (45-55 cm.)
Planting depth: 8 inches (20 cm.)
Spacing: 4 inches (10 cm.)
Light: full sun
Best uses: wind-sheltered areas and cut flower gardens.

Tulipa 'Purissima'

T. 'Purissima' (also known as White Emperor Tulip) is a Fosteriana tulip, a type originally found in the mountainous areas of Central Asia. 'Purissima' is tall, averaging 18 inches, and like all Fosterianas, has a large elongated flower shape and broad leaves. For best effect, plant in large drifts for early spring color.

Tulip 'Purissima'
USDA zones 3-8
Color: pure milky-white
Flowering period: early season
Notes: flower is huge and elongated, borne on a sturdy stem, faint fragrance
Average height: 16-20 inches (40-45 cm.)
Planting depth: 8 inches (20 cm.)
Spacing: 4 inches (10 cm.)
Light: full sun
Best uses: parks, beds, borders and rock gardens.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

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