Although I love the standard varieties of tulips and daffodils as much as anyone else, I’ve gotten addicted to growing more unusual types of spring flowering bulbs in the past few years.

When you think of the long, cold winters we have to endure, it seems only fair that we have flowering bulbs to look forward to. If you’re in the market for something special, I have plenty of suggestions for bulbs that will add a little more pizzazz to your garden.

Varieties of tulips tend to be shorter in stature, but they are hardy and tend to normalize better and their color displays are spectacular. They also bloom for a longer period of time compared to traditional tulip varieties. The Tubergen Jewel has alternating yellow and red petals that remind me of a court jester’s collar. Lady Jane is similar but with white, red and pink flowers. The petals of Tulipa dasystemon are egg-yellow with white tips.

I will be planting Tulipa humilis Persian Pearl this fall. When I saw the deep plum petals and their bright yellow centers, I knew I had to give them a place in my garden. The flowers are only 6 inches tall so I will make sure to plant them right in the front where I can admire them.

One of the things I really like about daffodils is that they are a deer and gopher repellent. Last year, I decided to try some Triandrus daffodils, which are smaller varieties with multiple fragrant flowers on each stem. I chose Moonlight Sensation, which features star-shaped blooms with white cups and creamy yellow petals. This fall, I will add a variety of Narcissus bulbocodium called Golden Bells.

While the rock garden iris is very small, its petals are stunningly beautiful. I started with the light blue Katherine Hodgkin a couple of years ago and loved it so much that I grew a type of lavender called Harmony. After seeing my dark purple pixie with its yellow spots, I decided to add her to the garden this fall. Yes, this is an addictive hobby.

Most gardeners plant white, purple or yellow crocus bulbs in their flower beds. They are always a delightful sight in early spring. But what about adding Orange Monarch to the mix? I have never seen saffron with such a deep orange color before. Wouldn’t she look stunning next to my pixie purple irises? The official name for this is Crocus olivieri ssp. Balansae Orange Monarch, just in case you want to track him down.

Grape hyacinths are also a common sight in gardens and are tough as nails. I’ve had the Blue Standard variety for a long time but saw Ocean Magic at a nursery a few years ago.

Its unusual flowers are dark purple below, pale blue in the middle, and white at the top, just like a dollop of whipped cream. Needless to say, it also grows in my garden and is fun!

No matter what bulbs you decide to plant, the best time to plant them is in the weeks before the ground freezes. For best effect, group bulbs together rather than planting them in a row.

When shopping for bulbs, remember to visit your local independent garden centers first to see what they have to offer this fall. There may be some unusual and eye-catching bulbs that you want to add to your garden.

Susan Mulvihill is the author of The Vegetable Garden Problem Solving Handbook and The Vegetable Garden Pests Handbook. She can be reached at Watch Susan’s videos at

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