It is not too late to purchase bargain bulbs to plant this fall for spring blooms.

If you see bins of bulbs on deep discounts at garden centers, pick out the bulbs that are the largest with no rot or soft spots. You can plant bulbs in Western Washington as late as early December and still enjoy spring flowers. Procrastinators who plant bulbs late will have less roots and a weaker plant.

Our climate in Western Washington is perfect for some of the smaller or minor bulbs, so think beyond tulips and daffodils because these bulbs are easier to plant needing shallow holes just a few inches deep.

A general rule of green thumb is to plant bulbs three times deeper than the width of the bulbs. This means a giant bulb, such as an allium or flowering onion, will do best if planted down one foot or more, but smaller bulbs, such as crocus, need just three inches of soil on top of their flat little heads.

If you want bulbs that will flower in just about any soil, sun or shade and spread into larger clumps each year, then toss some grape hyacinth bulbs into the ground now and in a few years you will have a carpet of blooming blue.

This little bulb is the perfect bed mate for forsythia as they both flower early and can tolerate dry summer soil. Muscari hyacinths make great marriages with daffodils, but both will fade and age into ugly by mid-spring, so plan for the yellow foliage decline by positioning hostas, day lilies or a leafy shrub in front of your bulb display.

Warning: Neat and tidy gardeners or people who have very small yards may find the vigorous growth of grape hyacinths annoying. The small blue blooms are not as invasive as blue bells or scilla but muscari can be a bit of a bed-hopping tramp.

A new law for Washington state: All gardeners must now plant snowdrop bulbs (Galanthus).

Forget the politics of health care, ignore the debate on car tabs. but follow the new law that states if you live in Western Washington and are lucky enough to have a patch of ground or empty pot of soil you are now required to plant snowdrop bulbs, crocus or hellebores. These are the winter flowering bulbs that will banish the blues and make the gray days of February bearable with grace notes of beauty.

Disclaimer: This is fake news. Our governor has not yet passed a law demanding that all citizens must plant winter bloomers, but I think it would be a great idea.

Pay a fine, get a tax deduction or go directly to jail if you fail to add winter color to the landscape.

Snowdrops, crocus and the early blooming hellebores can calm the crazy, warm the cold hearted and force a smile from the grouchiest winter Grinch.

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Plant winter blooming bulbs now. Not just for you, do it for all the cranky people who spend winter in Washington state.

A great way to say “not tonight deer” is by adding bulbs of fritillaria to the landscape. This is a diverse genus of bulbs that have a musky odor that can repel deer. (Fritillaria won’t keep deer from your yard, and they may get nibbled, but deer do not devour them as they would a tulip.)

The showiest fritillaria bulb is the “Imperial Fritillaria” standing three feet tall with downward facing orange blossoms topped with tufts of leafy bracts on purple stems. If this plant sounds unusual looking that is because they are. This is a flowering bulb that Dr. Suess would plant, or that you would expect to find on a newly discovered foreign planet.

You can order fritillaria bulbs online or look for them at garden centers, but unlike many smaller bulbs this garden treasure needs rich, well-drained soil and does better in the ground than in pots.

Checkered lilies (fritillaria meleagris) are shorter, more humble members of the freaky- looking fritillaria family with nodding, bell shaped blooms that will draw “oohs” and "aahs" only upon close inspection.

The petals are covered with purple and white square blocks of color. They really do resemble tiny checkerboards decorating the delicate petals. The checkered lilies may return year after year in a rock gardens or re-bloom for gardeners with deep, green thumbs. Most of us will enjoy the checkered lily blooms for just one spring, so be sure to plant them where it will be easy to examine and wonder at the checkered pattern up close.


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