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Gardening: If shops are out,try catalogs for bulbs

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News

This fall my small band of volunteer gardeners, the Late Bloomers, have begun work on a wild flower pollinator garden at the OPC, the senior citizen’s center in Rochester. Because many of the flowers will be grown from seed, we need some spring flowering attractors and early flowering alliums. They not only look good, they are also on the A-list as far as bees are concerned. These colorful members of the onion family are not enjoyed by deer or other animals and they usually perennialize and return for several years.

The hitch is early flowering annuals must be planted this fall and many of the garden centers I visited last weekend either didn’t carry what I wanted or were sold out. Another favorite, the black tulip ‘Queen of Nile,’ was also nowhere to be found, so this year I’m ordering from catalogs.

According to Colorblends, tulips provide an average of 17 days of color, depending on the variety and the weather. In cool temperatures daffodils can last three weeks or more. So if you plant a combination of early, mid and late season varieties in your garden, you’ll get a month and a half of gangbusters color when the world outside can still be bleak and gray. Continue the show with late spring and early summer flowering alliums and the color goes on and on.

Here’s a list of some of my favorite websites and catalogs for spring flowering bulbs. They all carry a good selection of top quality bulbs, but order up now because they too sell out.

At Brent and Becky’s Bulbs,, (877) 661-2852, check out their Dutch Pride Mix, a combination of short flowering bulbs that would make a perfect spring border at a front entry or tree grass area in the process of conversion to a garden. Included is a mix of blue Anemone blanda, yellow Narcissus ‘Tete-a Tete’ and red Tulipa pulchella. Two hundred and fifty bulbs priced at $50 will cover 20 to 25 square feet of space.

Colorblends sells direct to landscape professionals and home gardeners coast to coast at wholesale prices, with a $60 minimum. Visit the website at or call (888) 847-8637 to order their free award-winning catalog or read it online.

Longfield Gardens,, (855) 534-2733, offers free shipping with orders over $50.

If you want to grow some history, check out the collection of bulbs from Ann Arbor-based Old House Gardens,, (734) 995-1486, the purveyors of antique bulbs from around the world. Each has a story to tell.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at