tulips

In the Garden: Go beyond tulips for beautiful bulbs

I have a confession to make. Even though bulbs are probably the last thing I need more of in my garden, I just can’t help myself.

Bulb catalogs and garden center displays do this to me every time: Whenever I spot something new and unusual, it goes into my cart. I try reminding myself that I’ll have to dig a hole for every bulb, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference.

Fall is the time to plant bulbs that will bloom in the spring. The most commonly grown types are tulips, daffodils and crocuses. I think tulips are gorgeous, but there’s a problem. Since gophers and deer think they are delicious, I have to focus on bulbs that are rarely bothered by them.

As members of the onion family, alliums really fill the bill, and they come in a variety of sizes. Ivory Queen has wide, strap-like, gray-green leaves and large white flowers and are just 8 inches tall. Nigrum is an heirloom variety with small white blossoms and grow on 2-foot-tall stems. The downside to alliums is that Idaho and five Washington counties (Adams, Benton, Franklin, Grant and Klickitat) do not allow the shipment of alliums due to quarantine laws designed to protect onion crops from white rot disease.

Fortunately, we gardeners have other options for deer- and rodent-resistant bulbs. I’ve long admired crown imperial fritillaries (Fritillaria imperialis) both for their beauty and gopher-repelling qualities. The bulbs are rather expensive, which has always put me off. This year, I decided to buy a bulk package to take advantage of a better price and add crown imperials to my garden. They grow an impressive 36 inches tall and feature either bright yellow or orange flowers.

Other attractive fritillaries are Guinea hen flowers (F. meleagris), with their checkered petals and