No! She is NOT talking about that bulb book again!



Yes, I am. But wait! This is the fun part. The publishers have
agreed to send a copy of Anna Pavord’s gorgeous and rather pricey bulb guide to
a lucky Rant reader. Before we get to the giveaway, I’ve had some time to read
more of the book. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

You have to get used to the pitying looks that will come
your way from true snowdrop fanatics. “But surely you grow
rizehensis?” they
will say, and if you don’t, you get The Look.

Avoid daffodils with very beefy foliage. ‘Bravoure,’ for
instance, has leaves so massive they could easily fell a passing gnome.

Fritillaries are like that. They creep up on you quietly,
for noise is alien to them. … But some of us like khaki and welcome this restrained
palette of colors at a time when we are being assaulted by hyacinths that are
too pink, daffodils that are too yellow.

And here's the contest. After talking to Pavord, I immediately
ordered 10 ‘Katherine Hodgkin’ irises (above) and  20 ‘Prinses Irene’ tulips because her descriptions made me
want them. (That’s how bulbs work.) What are your current bulb obsessions? Answer
in comments and I’ll draw from them for the winner. You have until 9 p.m. EST Friday, and I'll announce then.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Angelique & Wirosa peony flowered tulips – I had them at our last house and loved them. My longing is all the more intense because I don’t yet have a bed built for them and must wait another year.

  2. Interestingly, I am also deeply into the Katherine Hodgkin irises. I had seen them for years in a garden near my work and obsessed about finding them for my own.

  3. I used to be addicted to Beauty tulips, I kept winning at the Flower shows with them. But I have moved, and now have squirrels, so this year I planted lots of Daffodils, and some Fritillarias (spelling close?). I love Alliums too, they just keep giving, even after they dry up they look good.

  4. I am going gaga over Mortagon lilies after visiting Margaret Roach’s garden this year. And I blame YOU for my growing obsession with lilies in general after introducing us readers to Brent and Becky’s bulbs, which, by the way, has become my number one mail order garden source. My husband sees the packages and just rolls his eyes.

  5. Hey, I need this book. Just so I can drool over the photos of bulbs I can’t grow in my zone 3 garden. Yes I know there are lots I can and do grow but hey you guys are soooo lucky further south!

  6. I haven’t had much experience with bulb obsessions—but I’d like to! I have hearted pink ribbon tulips ever since my sister brought some home to me for Easter.

  7. I’ve always liked bulbs of any kind. They were one of the first things I planted on my own when I was about 10. An elderly neighbor gave me some that she was dividing and I was hooked from then on.

    Currently I’m obsessed with planting different types of lilies and daylilies. Asiatics, orientals, crinum, daylilies. I have ten different colors already!

    Heirloom bulbs recently fell into my lap by way of my boyfriend’s yard. His grandmother planted some old fashioned tiger lilies and red crinum “lilies” about 30 years ago that I happily dug up and will be transplanting into my gardens. I also got two varieties of daffodil and some irises. I won’t be able to identify any of them until they bloom (next year I hope).

  8. I’m currently enchanted with the so called little bulbs — including anything that will grow and thrive in a lawn (crocus, ipheion, etc.), turning it into a carpet of springtime color. I also love the tiny daffodils, like Hawera and Jack Snipe…

  9. I love lillies and irises. I have not planted any lillies yet so I would love to go through the book and see all the examples that Anna Pavord chose to highlight. I have read some of her other books and loved them!

  10. I had to skip a year of bulb planting but I am back at it this fall! I got re-started with tulips: Prinses Irene, Van Der Neer, General De Wet, Marjolettii and crocus: Cloth of Gold, all from Old House Gardens-wish I could have got the entire catalog. I also planted some Linifolia and Turkestanica tulip bulbs that I got at the Tulip museum in Amsterdam. Now, I will enjoy fall and winter and hope for gorgeous spring tulips, daffodils and crocus.

  11. It sounds like a great read over a long long winter, and I can pine over the Martagon and species lilies that I can’t afford to plant. I lovelovelove ‘Katherine Hodgkin,’ and her blooms were the first to cheer on spring our garden this year–tough little things! Saw them first in pics from Craig at Ellis Hollow and was hooked. Thanks for so much on the delightful Pavord.

  12. Every year I add lots of small bulbs to my “magical forest” area in my back yard. I back up to a stand of trees, and I’m working on building a carpet of small bulbs for spring color.

    But for obsession… I’ve lately fallen for tacky, showy oriental lilies. The bigger, more multicollored, more spotted and ostentatious the better!

  13. There is nothing like planting a bulb to generate hope for Spring and the future! I love some of the smaller bulbs (Scilla, Chinoxodia etc) I just orderd some rare tulips from Old House Gardens and can’t wait to see them in bloom … hopefully before the deer eat them.

  14. I am currently pretty gone over species crocus. This fall I planted about 1500 of them into my lawn, can’t want for spring. My other bulb love is Martagon and species lilies. So easy to grow, so unfussy, beautiful blooms, and if that isn’t enough, they multiply so quickly!

  15. reading these posts about this book make me want to give tulips another chance. i desperately need more color at that time of year. too bad here in the frozen tundra it is too late to plant them. i will surely next year.

  16. Just today I planted 20 tulipa sylvestris in a container, I wanted to spread them out in the little but very well stocked bulb patch I have created near the Ash. But I could not and it is all Pavord’s fault.

    My name is Bert, I’m Belgian, and I’m a bulbomaniac. I’ve plundered Avon and every garden centre and fair in the area for botanical tulips (from clusiana to whittallii) and other bulbilicious beauties and am now longing for spring like never ever before. But the patch is already planted so densely (I too don’t like bulb planters, and have even constructed my own equally useless planting devices), that I didn’t dare put the sylvestris in there. It’s all her fault, she told me to splurge!

    So if you do not want to find yourself hiding bulbs that arrive by post from your lover, if you do not want to freak out your neighbours by digging little holes all over the garden like a crazed dog, if you do not want to dream about drainage: don’t read or touch anything by Pavord. You will be intoxicated and addicted before you know it. There is no vaccine and no cure, the syndrome has been around for centuries. Since it is too late for me, I volunteer to take custody of the book. If you are untouched by bulbomania, yet receive Pavord’s pandora’s box of bulbs: burn before reading!

  17. Hyacinths are my current obsession. For years I struggled with chilling and planting and battling voles to prove that Tulips can grow in the South, which they can, but at great expense and aggravation. Daffodils are a given. Hyacinths are just fun to grow and smell so heavenly.

    Oh, wait! I saw some hippeastrum at a local nursery today. When I go back to pick up my violas, I’ll be springing for at least two bulbs.

  18. Cyclamen hederifolium Why I have I never grown this plant before? Masses of gorgeous flowers in the fall, and now it is coming up with the most amazing silver patterned leaves for the winter. Beyond gorgeous.

  19. Alluims alluims alluims. I planted about a hundred of these this year on my little city lot. They’re flowers but they’re not flowers. Almost architectural. I use smaller ones (drumstick, etc.) as ‘bedding’ under shrubs and around my roses, and I use the taller ones (gladiator, etc.) to ‘divide’ areas of my garden into sections.

  20. I recently learned about Yucca Do nursery and I’m itching to get some of their hardy bulbs from the mountains of the SW and Mexico in my zone 8 garden. The crinums look especially interesting with a variety of shapes and colors.

  21. My cellar is full of pots of tulips now. My garden is crammed and I have hundreds of lily seedlings going. It’s definitely an addiction, and a battle to the death with the voles.

  22. I am obsessed with mini daffodils. Unfortunately I don’t know the varieties I have, since most of them have been gifted to me as Easter gifts, or picked up at local garden club sales. I am also lusting over tall varieties of lilies after going to the Garden Walk in Buffalo this year. I didn’t get any this year, but they are on my wish list for next years garden.

  23. Cammassias. I’m currently bonkers for Cammassias.

    Before that, I was bonkers for fritillaries. And before that, species tulips. I’ve also had phases dedicated to Triandris narcissus and the Hyancinthoides clan.

  24. Everything crocus. Fall crocus are currently my favorite flower ever. Thsi spring I’ll be sure to repent and say spring crocus are the best, but there ya’ go. Also planted some crocus that should produce the proper flowers for saffron. The greens have arrived twice, but no blooms yet…

  25. My current ‘blub’ err um I mean ‘bulb’ obsession tends to lean to the subtropical and temperate kind.
    Colocasia and Alocasia commonly known as Elephant Ears are at the top of my big leaf list.
    In my garden, ‘size matters’, the bigger the more satisfying and those rich dark ones are even more alluring. I am hot under my sun hat for that new Thailand strain that Plant Delights is tempting me with. What girl could resist a reputed 9 foot tall striking fella ?

    I’m also replanting a patch of Scadoxus , Blood lilys, this spring and once again trying the tuberous rooted Bomarea vine.
    I’ve ‘been there and killed that twice’ in the past but I’m determined to get one to green up and bloom if it kills me or empties my bank account first.

  26. Forcing. Any bulb I can force to get blooms (preferably fragrant blooms)during the winter. Come spring I’ll probably start obsessing with crocus and daffodils, move on to tulips (both species and the might-as-well-be-annual types), and progress into lilies. Then it will be back to thinking about what to order for forcing.

  27. miniature hippeastrum bulbs (specifically “pink floyd”) are my current obsession, but i ADORE all things bulb and corm! i planted over 400 this year in my newly drained swamp–tulip, crocus, the wrong type of snowdrop, allium, and garlic–and i’m hoping to do another 400 next year, and so on and so on…

    i would LOVE to have this book!!!

  28. I used to be more obsessed with bulbs when I lived on the West Coast in Vancouver. Now, in Manitoba, I find daffodils hard to over-winter, and some tulips never emerge, even with a good mulch. Snowdrops I’ve always loved best – the first to appear and a glorious scent!

  29. Narcissus Quail demonstrated to me just how sweetly fragrant daffs can be. These 12″ multi-flowering stems are perfect for cutting and bringing indoors mid to late spring. I’m looking for other rally fragrant varieties for my tiny, squirrel-plagued inner city garden.

  30. My bulb obsession is Scilla siberica, and the pool of deep sapphire blue it creates in my garden. So lovely.

    (Can anyone explain why the cover art on the image here is Prinses Irene, but when I look for this book online it seems to be a crocus?)

  31. Hi Ali,

    My book has the Prinses Irene, so I don’t get the crocus art either. It could be they did a few different covers. Mitchell Beazley is not afraid to spend money!

  32. My current bulb obsession is fragrant Tulips. Favorites include: Orange Princess, Montreux, Hollands Glory, Silverstream. New ones I am trying this year are: Couleur cardinal, Annie Schilder, Ballerina (supposed to have a strong citrus fragrance!), Orange Favorite, and general de Wet.

    All of these are being planted on berms so they are raised up to be closer to one’s nose. It is very funny to be digging holes all over a berm (fears of a landslide cross the mind.), but it worked well last year. So this year upped the ante and got about 350 bulbs (including hyacinths) into one berm. It should be an orange/red feat! Does anyone know why so many of the fragrant tulips are orange?

  33. I adore cyclamen. I have C. Hederifolium, C.coum, and C. cilicium. I want flowers all winter. I’ve been buying lilies like crazy the last couple of years. They’re easy, and gorgeous, and fragrant. On the other hand, life without snowdrops is simply not worth living.

  34. Hyacinths, yes Hyacinths. Their fragrance fills the room. No wait, its Narcissus, definitely Narcissus. I’m forcing several in tall vases. Of course the Amaryllis are about to bloom. So I guess I’m obsessing about them. But every time I pick up a bulb catalog I look for Saffron Crocuses. And then there are the …. I think I’ll just stop know, this could be a very long comment.

  35. I love ‘Katherine Hodgkin’! I’ll admit that I bought my first one rather reluctantly. I was looking for ‘J.S. Dijt’ and the store was out. As for my current obsession–corms. I’m gaga over glads. They were my dad’s favorite. But right at this very miniute I’m cuckoo over crocus sativus. Mine are blooming for the first time. Well, maybe “blooming” is stretching it. The little purple flowers with their treasure of orange stigmas are plastered to the ground due to the heavy rains. We’re in Seattle and it’s been deluge after deluge for the past several weeks. I don’t think I’ll be getting any saffron this year–so much for a nice sunny paella to brighten our dreary November. But I’m certain that a book of garden porn would cheer me up!

  36. My current obsession is Allium schubertii-started with 1 ( a gift) and now have 10-a lot for my smallish garden. Love that Sputnik look!

    Over the years my “interest” in bulbs has bordered on the criminal. My first offense was in 1969. Our apartment complex bordered on a huge estate that was being torn down and the property was awash in beautiful daffodils. I couldn’t bear the thought of all that beauty being plowed under and trespassed one day right before dawn ( to my new husbands horror-he hardly bats an eye now), trowel and bag in hand. I’ve lost count of the number of bulbs I’ve rescued over the years-hundreds in at least 6 states-sometimes with permission, sometimes……
    Many of the bulbs have been moved house to house, garden to garden. It would be nice to be able to identify some of the cultivars……

  37. I love Fritillaria meleagris and I must have paperwhite narcissus (usually ‘Ziva’ but sometimes others) indoors during the cold and dark part of the year.

  38. One recent addition to my side bed was the Casablanca lily, and I love it. It’s behind a number of perennials and it looks great. I will be getting several more to tuck in wherever I can find room.

  39. Angelique tulips, hands down. I put 50 in last year but a late spring frost nipped every one. I dang near burst into tears. I also love Tete a Tete; they’re planted on the top of a 4 ft rock wall so they’re eye to eye with you as you come up the front steps.

  40. Daffodils. Cheerful, bright and never failing in my area of the San Francisco Bay Area. Tulips can be temperamental, should it not be cold enough, despite being sent pre-chilled bulbs (but I have luck with the T. clusiana species), but daffodils always deliver the big show. I have a whole front yard buried with narcissas that, come spring, look like a naturalized woodland. What’s best is that some of the miniature daffodils work in tiny vases, looking perky and cheerful on a diminutive scale.

  41. I cleared the English ivy out of an area of my garden which is mostly shaded by two large red oaks and a very large (and mature, ready to drop dead) white pine, and I have been captivated with planting bulbs there this fall. I have designed a woodland walk, with groups of hostas–not bulbs, I know, but mentioned only to give context– and so far, I have large groupings of Spanish bluebells transplanted from hither and yon around the garden, 200 tiny W.P. Milner daffodils at the sunny end of the area, and two quite large groups of “Pagoda” erythronium in the deeper shade. I was encouraged to plant the erythronium by the sudden and totally unexpected appearance of a volunteer of it this spring, so I am hopeful that next spring I will find masses of its charming yellow lanterns nodding above the trout-patterned leaves. Well, I am always hopeful. I have left spaces for transplanting snowdrops “in the green” next spring.

    Bulbs are the most satisfying of garden gifts. They appear out of the dead earth in early spring, bringing the hope of resurrection, and when they have finished, they modestly and gently disappear, to replenish themselves to reappear next spring. And who cannot marvel at the miracle of a tall and elegant lily springing from an unprepossessing and untidy brown lump of matter? Well, my husband can’t, but that’s another story.

  42. I mostly go for hardy, deer resistant bulbs, but the flashy, wildy arrayed viridiflora tulips with their invasions of green color are irresistable to me. Last spring my new favorite became ‘Green Wave’. At first I was almost embarrassed by the spectacle they created in the garden, but I learned to like the cheap thrill. Last month I looked back at the photos I had taken of them and was forced to head to the garden center for yet more ‘Green Wave’ bulbs.

  43. Early spring ephemerals so that you’ve got something to look forward to right after the snow melts.

    I’ll get my own copy of the book. But if you’re going to plant bulbs, put stuff in that will great you as the drifts retreat.

  44. Somehow I missed the whole window for planting garlic bulbs this fall. Phooey. I have a near-permanent flower bulb obsession with crocuses (croci?), and I’ve been developing one about squill since finding a volunteer in my yard a couple of autumns ago.

  45. Yes – each year I have bulb obsessions which thankfully end up in my clients’ yards since I am out of room in mine. This year it was Snake’s Head (frittilaria meleagris), the Evan Scent daffodil mix from Colorblends which is heavenly because it is a fragrant mix that actually blooms at the same time, Camassia which is spectacular in large groups, comes up later in the season and is a native bulb, chionodoxa which are wonderful in large clusters, Thalia daffodils which I spotted in the book Dream Gardens which was another obsession this season (by Tania Compton & Andrew Lawson)and my signature bulb Allium Christophii which is amazing as a dried flower. Other faves: Bakeri Lilac Wonder tulips (pink and yellow)and who can say no to snowdrops. Obsessions can be exhausting ;->

  46. In another life, I lived in an huge, echoing, old, dry, central Californian Victorian farmhouse, surrounded by naked ladies. Wait. That sounds wrong. By amaryllis belladonna. In August, they sprang from the ground: smooth, fat, brownish pink stalks with swollen tips. Honestly, they did not look like ladies, if you know what I mean. Now, I live in LA, in a tiny ‘tudor’ bungalow and I have naked ladies again. Two of them, or I wouldn’t be able to use the plural. Awkwardly, last year they bloomed at different times, making the back bed seriously assymetrical. I also have narcissus (of course) although I have been forbidden by my husband to bring them in the house. To be honest, I know how he feels about them. And I have sparaxis (harlequin flower). Anyone who can grow these should grow them. I have no idea what they want as far as climate, but not only is the range of colors and patterns fascinating, they are hardy little guys! I planted them in entirely the wrong places last year, yanked them up at the end of spring to try to correct the error, and darn it if they’re not back (in their original places, of course–the joke was decidedly on me). I can’t bring myself to wrench them up again, either, until I see what they flower like–which means there’ll be yet another generation next year. And, I have some iris that were supposed to be glamourously dark purple, but actually seem kind of average. They’re rhizomes, in fact, not bulbs. BUT I *also* have miniature iris bulbs called ‘george’. Does it make me want to ‘hug it and squeeze it and call it george’? I don’t know yet, but I should find out this winter. Alliums didn’t work for me, though. Poop.

  47. This is my first fall gardening and I’m entranced. I am loving it all, the plants that thrive and the mystery of the ones that don’t. The miracle of perennials. The complex mysteries of what I used to think of as just dirt.And now, bulbs! I was out in the rain this morning sticking just a few more into the soil. My current obsession–anything I can get my hands on. I’ll see, come spring, which of them I like more than the others. At the moment, I love that I am gardening.

  48. Dracunculus – vulgaris:
    So different from the average bulb, big, colorful, and unfortunately stinky. I love to find the unexpected in flowers.

  49. I am absolutely smitten by Narcissus, especially ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’. It blooms in late December for me, and usually through February, when the others pop up.
    My other love is Crinums. Most Crinums aren’t hardy here, but I have some that do well.
    And of course, I have to force Hyacinths in the refrigerator for winter bloom.
    Is it obsessive to have 800+ Narcissus? How about 30 Hyacinths crowding the Thanksgiving goodies?

  50. I am obsessed with getting my Grandmothers Irises into my garden. They are just a standard blue Louisiana iris but there are memories attached to them for me. Growing up I remember watching them come up and bloom so beautifully. I used to get in trouble if I went and picked them(I was little and facinated with how pretty they were and got in trouble every year). I even have a special spot in my garden for them.
    In the rest of my garden I would like to plant random bulbs and see what suprises I can get in spring. 🙂

  51. If Ann Pavord rewrote the phonebook, I’d read it. I just finished reading Bulb last night. Yes, it may have been written as a reference book—it was certainly designed to be one—but for someone disposed to give anything growing from an underground storage unit the benefit of the doubt, I read the whole thing cover to cover.

  52. Having just checked on the roots that are appearing on the Erlicheers I am forcing I can feel the siren call of daffodils. And I thought I was obsessed with dutch iris and freesias.

  53. I love Fritillaria meleagris — the clumps I planted several years ago are beefing up and now I’m finding a few solitary seedlings in random locations around the yard. I do let some of them go to seed each year. (The seedheads are actually quite pretty.) So from there I’m branching out to other Fritillarias including F. michailovskyi and F. pontica. And then there are the crocus. I have a berm planted with hundreds of Dutch crocus. It’s a huge event for me when they open in the spring — such a relief after a long northern winter. During the last stretch of winter, I frequently fantasize about sipping a glass of champagne while admiring the flowers on a sunny day in early spring. Crocus are a reason to celebrate!

  54. In an effort to become more sustainable, I’ve been testing out bulbs (and corms and rhizomes!) that survive summer droughts, since my climate is quite dry. I’ve been planting calochortus and some other california native plants, as well as some south african bulbs such as watsonias and geissorhiza radians.
    But I still can’t resist some old favorites like anemones ranunculus and daffodils and especially lilies!

  55. Although I love daffodils and see them as the charming harbingers of spring, the elegant tulip remains an obsession. Flighty in our area and generally not making a return the following year, the stately tulip’s elusiveness makes it even more attractive. My very favorite is Queen of Night, but I must admit that Paul Scherer might be my choice next year, or I might go in search of some frilly fringe lavender ones….

  56. I am fond of species miniature narcissi….N.cantabricus is especially nice being a white form of the Yellow Hoop Petticoat.

  57. What are my obsessions? Mine is a collector’s garden as I don’t have nearly enough room (which makes Oxalis triangularis, with its striking black/purple leaves, a small beauty to be tucked randomly in containers growing other things). In springtime, I’m obsessed with Hippeastrum papilio(butterfly amaryllis) and its dramatic garnet-and-white striping, making them the most glamorous, elegant springtime flowers. Yet, I can’t resist the allure of tall sky blue Dutch irises (rhizomes, I know) rising far above the other bulbs, earlier than the amaryllis. I’m also obsessed with the fragrance of freesias and their wanton, blowsy look when top-heavy stems collapse under the weight of morning dew. On the other hand, Crinums are the most fragrant of midsummer bulbs, and I want more! And then there are the raspberry-red Watsonias — as beautiful with their long sprays of small flowers as the amaryllis’s larger flowers, and they last longer in the garden.

    And did I mention ‘Green goddess’ calla lilies? Perhaps they lack the subtle fragrance of the more common plain white Zantedeschia aethiopicas, but their flowers are enormous, and last an unbelievable six to eight weeks in a vase.

  58. I know I’m too late for the drawing, but I had to share my love of hyacinths. I LOVE hyacinths. Who can pass up black Menelik? Double hollyhock? Easy to force Lady Derby? They are such a neglected bulb. So pretty, so easy to care for, so fragrant, and yet so few Americans plant them. I fantasize about starting an American Hyacinth Society.

    I blame Old House Gardens for my obsession with bulbs in general. Everything Scott and his crew sells is stunning and worth the price.

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