Many bulb varieties provide a spring payoff

Kathy Van Mullekom / Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)

When you plant bulbs in the fall, you bury something that looks pretty brown and boring.

Come spring, your hard work pays off. First, a green shoot emerges from the soil, followed by leaves that frame colorful flowers.

Presto, your brown, boring bulbs — alliums, tulips, crocuses, daffodils and hyacinths — are buried treasures that send you into spring fever.

Choosing the bulbs to bury gets better — and more challenging — each year.

“If you look at all bulbs, there really are literally hundreds of thousands of different varieties to choose from,” says Becky Heath of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in southeastern Virginia. The Heaths have been chosen as suppliers of 100,000 daffodils to be planted in various cities and counties in October and November as part of the Marathon Daffodil route in honor of the Boston Marathon, according to a recent Boston Magazine.

“With that much variety, sometimes blooms begin to look a little bit alike. So, it’s truly the unique and unusual that really stands out.”

To get that uniqueness among your buried treasures, look for these new gems, and get them planted:

Allium Pink Jewel

Alliums make great “bridge plants,” connecting the end of spring to the beginning of summer, according to the Heaths. Alliums are ornamental, edible onions, and their strong flavors and onion smell are a turnoff to critters that like to use your garden as a personal buffet. Pink Jewel features softball-sized blooms that stand out much more than some other alliums, with their bright, medium pink color and their contrasting green “eyes,” says Becky. Standing about 2-foot tall, they fit most garden styles without overpowering or stealing the attention. They are cold hardy in Zones 4-8; plant them two to three times deep the bulb height in well-drained, soil and full sun.

Narcissus Ginter’s Gem

It takes five to seven years to get a hybridized daffodil to market, so this “new” 15-year-old daffy is special because it’s named in honor of Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Va., according to the Heaths. Recently named one of the top 10 botanical gardens worth traveling to by a group of judges from the Canadian Garden Tourism Council and the American Public Gardens Association, Lewis Ginter also works with the Virginia Daffodil Society to present its annual show; association members asked that a daffodil be named in the botanical garden’s honor. Ginter’s Gem is a mid-spring bloomer with bell-shaped, luminous petals that beckon bees from a distance. Daffodils prefer full sun, although half a day is acceptable; plant the bulbs three times the height of the bulb.

Tulip Concerto

“Tulips brighten and color a landscape like no other bulb,” says Becky Heath. “But there’s nothing like a tall elegant, creamy white tulip to add class to a garden.” Tulip Concerto offers that class with sulphur white petals, but with the addition of a yellow-edged black heart on the inside and a light blush on its tips — as if it’s saying “I’m a little devil inside,” adds Becky. It’s a base color that blends with almost any other color in the landscape, but can also stand on its own.

Tulip Aquilla

These double-early tulips appear in early spring, and what makes them double is that the blooms are peony- or rose-like in shape, according to the Heaths. The straw-yellow base color of the crepe-like petals is then lined in a bright reddish-orange color. Its long-lasting flowers combine nicely with daffodils, muscari and hyacinths, and it’s a great bulb to force into bloom. Use the tulip in beds, planters and window boxes.