Marianne Binetti

Fall is the ideal time to plant flowering bulbs, including alliums, for spring color

The end of September is the perfect time to visit the nurseries and garden centers for end-of-season sales.

The cooler nights encourage fast root growth, so trees, shrubs and perennials planted now will get off to a good start for future years of beauty.

Late September also is a good time to note the turn of foliage color from Japanese maples. Planning your landscape around a tree with brilliant foliage is a wonderful way to enjoy the change of seasons. In Western Washington we have plenty of plants that put on a show of autumn glory.

Continue planting bulbs this week for spring color. If you are looking to go beyond the tulip, daffodil, crocus display, here are some unusual bulbs to add now for years of beautiful spring color.

Allium or flowering onions

Big, bold, dramatic globes of blue and purple will attract attention in any garden, and these bulbs are rodent, rabbit and deer resistant. Plant these huge bulbs in deep holes at least 8 inches under the ground. They like full sun but will flower in partial shade. The flowers appear in June or late May, and the onion scent attracts plenty of pollinating insects but no deer. There are dozens of varieties from the 4-inch globes of the Purple Sensation to the dramatic 10-inch blooms of Globemaster.

Tip: The alliums in my garden have been blooming for a decade, and I extend the color season by spray painting the faded, brown flower heads purple or blue. Gardening is an art, not a science, so break some rules and have fun with your garden — or your dried flower heads.


This unusual plant has a skunky smell that makes it resistant to deer and mice, but the bulbs will sprout with fantastical looking inverted bell shape blooms.

The tall Crown Imperial has been a favorite in Dutch gardens since 1590 when only royalty had the money to grow impressive displays of crown-like blooms. The stems can be 3 feet tall and capped with unique umbrella-shaped flower clusters. There also are smaller frittilarias with petals covered in a purple, checkered pattern, and frittilarias that bloom in yellow and red versions. Just be prepared to answer questions most of April and May when your frittilaries are in bloom. They are not your typical spring bloomers.

Tip: A bit tricky to grow. Make sure you buy fresh bulbs and plant immediately as the soft bulbs do not like being out of the soil. Frittilarias need loose, rich soil and like cool weather, so plant them in filtered shade.

Camassia or wild hyacinth

The tall, blue spikes of this native plant looks very much like a large hyacinth bloom, but the benefit for Western Washington gardeners is that camassia is native to the Cascade mountains and loves our wet spring weather. The bulb and flowers also are deer and rodent resistant, and they flower late when the tulip and daffodils are done.

Did I mention they bloom even in partial shade? In the right spot your camassia bulbs will return year after year, making our native pollinators happy. Camassia bulbs were used as a starchy food source for the native first people of our state.

Tip: The Camassia quamash has floret filled lavender-blue blooms on stems just 15 inches tall. This dwarf version of the native camassia is less likely to topple over in a rain storm. For long-lasting color, look for the even shorter Camassia quamash Blue Melody, a hybrid with deeper blue blooms and attractive yellow striped leaves.