Bulbs
DaffodilBreaking through the winter gloom, cheery crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths, grape hyacinths and tulips color the landscape, followed by summer- and fall-flowering bulbs including lilies, cannas, crinums, dahlias, gladioluses and autumn crocuses. All are part of the spectacular multi-season display of bulbs that bloom throughout the year in a carefully-planned and timed floral exhibition that reaches every corner of the Missouri Botanical Garden.

The Garden’s bulb collection is expansive: “There are over 1,000 different types of bulbous plants cycled through the spring, summer and fall displays,” explains Jason Delaney, north gardens supervisor and bulb specialist responsible for the Heckman and Samuels Bulb Gardens– and it is also nationally-recognized. The American Daffodil Society (ADS) named the Narcissus (daffodil) collection as the first sanctioned ADS Display Garden, which Delaney describes as “quite an honor.”

Bulbs being planted today.

For spring 2011, 48,600 tulips of 116 different varieties were planted.  Additionally, 13,270 crocuses of 10 varieties; 2,990 daffodils of 55 different varieties; 2,200 hyacinths of 15 varieties; and nearly 2,000 bulbs of several miscellaneous genera were planted. In a typical year, the Garden adds between 50,000 and 85,000 bulbs to its existing displays. Tens of thousands of bulbs remain in the ground year-round as part of the permanent collection.

Generally, the second week of April is peak bloom for all spring flowering bulbs; mid-June is peak for the early summer flowering bulbs; and late September to early October is peak for the autumn flowering bulbs.

“The spring display, which is planted in autumn, includes the most familiar of the hardy bulbs such as tulips and daffodils, a lot of the lilies, crocuses and a lot of miscellany,” Delaney said. These will be at their peak about the second week of April. “In the summertime, starting in late May, we remove the tulips and hyacinths, which are treated as annuals, and put in the tropical bulbs, including the elephant’s ears, dahlias, gladioluses, amaryllises and many others.”

Common hyacinth

The Heckman and Samuels Bulb Gardens are home to the majority of the Garden’s bulbous plants, including the Narcissus collection of nearly 650 unique varieties. The pair lies on either side of the path south of the Gladney Rose Garden. However, flowering bulbs can be found throughout the Garden grounds, some in small clusters and others in eye-catching masses. There are hundreds of thousands of crocuses carpeting the lawn of the Lehmann Building. The main entrance of the Garden includes a central median of 10,000 bulbs, including a striking display of 1,500 giant flowering onions. Thousands of tulips are planted en masse in the formal beds flanking the aquatic pools in the Climatron® axis and in front of the Linnean House.  Daffodil collectionMore bulbs can be spotted in the Cherbonnier English Woodland Garden and the Kemper Center for Home Gardening, and thousands of daffodils of many different varieties have been naturalized throughout the shrubbery beds surrounding the Jenkins Daylily Garden and through the neighboring Knolls.  Unique to the collection, the Bakewell Ottoman Garden maintains historic cultivars and species of bulbs once commonly grown by the sultans of the Ottoman Empire.

Tulips

The bulbous plants are clearly labeled with family, genus, species, geographical origin, cultivar, common name, name of the hybridizer and date of registration, as applicable, Delaney explained. The collection aims to meet the needs of the gardener seeking to discover the rarest to most common, oldest to newest; there are even plants as yet unnamed and under evaluation that “will someday be the plants of the future,” Delaney said.

The Samuels Bulb Garden was created in 1985 through a donation by Mrs. Jane Jacobs in memory of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Julian G. Samuels. The Heckman Garden followed in 1990 with a gift by Mr. and Mrs. William G. Heckman.