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Most everyone is familiar with bulbs and have used some in their landscaping plan at one time or another. However there are quite a few varieties that will do quite nicely in a xeric setting or at least in a lower watering area and will put up with Wyoming’s interesting climate and wildlife.
Bulbs offer early spring color and go well with other later blooming plants. They also can be used as a ground cover or in a naturalized area. The main thing to think about is where the variety of bulb originates. Also be wary of a few that can be invasive (Star of Bethlehem).
Complex hybridization has resulted in an astounding variety of irises to choose from. And, with careful planning, Wyoming gardeners can extend the bloom time of iris over many months in their gardens. Their lovely flowers are available in every color and color- combination imaginable. Little wonder that early botanists named this beautiful flower in honor of Iris, the rainbow goddess. Iris flowers are characterized by their unique shape.
Siberian squill (Scilla sibirica) is a member of the lily family (Liliaceae) and one of the first of the spring-flowering bulbs to brighten the landscape in early spring. It is one of more than 100 species in the genus Scilla that are native to Europe, Africa and Asia. Siberian squill produces dark green, grass-like leaves that emerge from the ground in early spring. Soon thereafter, one or more arching flower stalks (up to six inches in length) are produced from the center of the rosette of foliage. Each flower stalk supports one to three nodding flowers of intense royal blue. Fortunately, Siberian squill is not a preferred food of voles, chipmunks, rabbits or deer. Other types are ‘bifolia’ and mischtschenkoana (white).
Daffodils-Narcissus are good perennial plants, but there are a handful of daffodil varieties that actually naturalize. Naturalizing plants actually reproduce new bulbs underground, thickening over time and producing more flowers. Since these bulbs reproduce rather easily, they have another advantage: they are the cheapest daffodils on the market. There are lots of colors and types to choose from, they are great in many different locations and are deer resistant.
Alliums are another very interesting bulb family which really adds a vertical interest to a garden. Mount Everest has large white round blooms growing almost 3 feet tall. Star of Persia allium christophii is a tall plant with softball sized purple flowers, which like dry sites. There are other tall ones which typically have more of a purple color. Do not forget that onions, chives and garlic are in this family and there are plenty of edible ornamental varieties of these to choose from.
Lilies are another category most people have a misconception of growing in Wyoming. Regal Torchlily Kniphofia caulescens is actually a xeric plant with a tall orange yellow spike flower which is quite striking. Some of the Trumpet Lilies grow quite large and have showy flowers. Camassia leichtlinii “Caerulea” does quite well and is very hardy and has a blue colored flower.
Tulips are very good plants, however most of the traditional types are really liked by wildlife, so they would need protection, but they make a great colonizer if given a chance. Look at Tulipa batalinii which is a small yellow type of tulip which is really hardy. Another tulip to consider would be tulipa greigii which is also small with a red flower.
Crocuses can also be used this way and will perform quite will and of course are shorter. Do not forget about the white flowers of snowdrop which can really brighten up an area. Also glory of the snow, chionodoxa is a hardy small plant and some varieties do have the blue color, and is very critter resistant.
Scott Hininger is with the Sheridan County Extension office.