That’s the title of an excellent article by Karen Bussolini in last September’s American Gardener. “The best surprise of the first spring in my new home in Connecticut,” Karen writes, “was a mass of shaggy, fragrant daffodils that bloomed like crazy. . . . They were growing all over the neighborhood, but I couldn’t find them in any of my books or catalogs.” It turned out they were ‘Van Sion’, from 1620, and “twenty-five years later, they’re still going strong.” Bussolini asked experts around the country to recommend other “durable bulbs” like that which “come up every spring [and] bloom with no effort on a gardener’s part,” and many of them were heirlooms:
SOUTH: Scott Ogden in the humid Gulf South notes that “wild narcissus such as N. jonquilla . . . have naturalized in roadside ditches and Lent lilies (N. pseudonarcissus) are taking over old pastures.” Scott also recommends Byzantine glads, crinums, rain lilies, oxblood lilies, and red spider lilies.
MOUNTAIN WEST: In zone-9 Tucson, Arizona, Scott Calhoun recommends T. clusiana and white rain lilies. In dry, zone-5b Fort Collins, Colorado, Lauren Springer says “only grape hyacinths and foxtail lilies survive . . . without irrigation,” but with one inch of water a month C. chrysanthus, tommies, and Byzantine glads do well, and if you double that in spring so will species tulips such as T. clusiana. “Most alliums are champs,” too, she adds.
WEST COAST: Greg Graves in zone-8a Graham, Washington, recommends ‘Thalia’ and pheasant’s-eye daffodils, tommies, snowdrops, snake’s-head fritillaries, and T. clusiana. In zone-10a Encinitas, dry-climate gardening expert Nan Sterman “relies on slim, elegant” Byzantine glads. And on zone-10b Alcatraz, our good customer Shelagh Fritz says that when the Garden Conservancy started restoring the abandoned gardens there, “as soon as the winter rains began, bulbs started popping up,” including Scilla, grape hyacinths, snowflakes, daffodils, and gladiolus.
For more, read the entire article. And then, as Bussolini recommends, “plant some new bulbs that will yield a huge payoff for many years to come.”