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October 2021

by Michael Kerkes, CPH, Co-Owner of Crazy Hill Garden & Botanical, published as the column “Ramblings of a Crazy Gardener” in the North Bay Review

Are you thinking about spring?

It’s time to start thinking about spring! Yes, that’s right, spring. Now is the time to be purchasing and planting those delightful spring bulbs. Bulbs, corms, and tubers bring such colorful joy and hold quite a surprise from such drab looking characters.

Let’s break down the difference between these three:

First, all of the three are swollen, underground plant parts that store energy. Scientifically speaking they fall under the umbrella term, Geophyte, from the greek words for Earth and plant.

What is a corm? A corm is a vertical, fleshy, underground stem that acts as a food storage structure.

Examples of corms are Crocus, Gladiolas, and Cyclamen.

What is a bulb? A bulb is a rounded, underground storage organ present in some plants like Lilies, Daffodils, and tulips, consisting of a short stem surrounded by fleshy scale leaves or leaf bases. Bulbs lay dormant over the winter

What is a tuber? A tuber is the thickened, underground part of a stem or rhizome. It serves as a food reserve and bears buds from which plants arise. Potatoes and Dahlias are great examples of tubers.

Now that we have the definitions out of the way, let’s have fun! With the cool fall weather comes the availability of these wonderful splashes of spring color. Bulbs, corms, and tubers start showing up on the shelves of your favorite nursery or garden center. And let’s not forget those spectacular, color catalogs that grace our mailboxes. This is where the fun begins!

Take a look at your garden and pots and figure out where you have available space. There are so many to choose from and they are all wonderful. Here are a few of my favorite spring bulbs.

  • Narcissus ‘Tete-a-tete’ (daffodil). This charming little work horse is an early bloomer, bright yellow and happy as all get out!

  • Narcissus ‘Jetfire’ (daffodil). Another early boomer with lovely yellow petals and bright orange cup. A great naturalizer. Just amazing.

  • Double Narcissi are showstoppers that bloom later and bare flowers that almost have a Rose or Peony like appearance.

  • Tulips. My favorite are the greggii varieties, sporting variegated leaves that resemble snake skin, bright red flowers and also early bloomers. Triumph varieties are tough, strong growers that stand up to our spring rains. My favorite is Paul Scherer with its stunning purple, almost black flower! So many amazing daffs and tulips to choose from.

Here are a couple of oddities you may like.

  • Aliums. Close relative to onions with wonderful globe shaped flowers that come in shades of purple/blue and white.

  • Fritillarias are another fun group of plants. My favorite is Frittillaria meleagris; this cute little flower looks almost like an upside down snake skin tulip. I love love love this plant!

I’ll wrap this up, do your homework and most importantly .... have fun!


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