This Weekend: The Arboretum’s Bulb Extravaganza!

This Weekend: The Arboretum’s Bulb Extravaganza!

If you’re in the market for some beautiful blooming bulbs (and who isn’t?) stay away from the big box stores, put away those catalogs, log off the internet and head down to the region’s finest bulb sale – the Arboretum Foundation’s Annual Fall Bulb & Plant Sale, Sunday, October 3 and Monday, October 4, from 10 am to 2 pm, at the Graham Visitors center at the Washington Park Arboretum.

This sale features hundreds of varieties of daffodils and tulips, along with over 150 varieties of specialty bulbs such as alliums, anemones, crocuses, camassia, fritillarias, galanthus, and more.  They will even have shallots and garlic for the kitchen gardeners. Shoppers will be treated to many rare, unusual and heirloom varieties of bulbs, in addition to the classics that perform well in our gardens year after year. The savvy people behind the sale select only the finest varieties that are just right for Pacific Northwest growing conditions and give you the most bang for your buck.

I confess that last year I didn’t get to the bulb sale and ordered my bulbs from a catalog. Since I ordered late, nearly all the varieties I wanted were sold out; I had to settle for other varieties. But then to my dismay the following spring, about 50% of the bulbs I planted never even came up – zero, zip, nada! Not a single blossom to show for my money or labors. Who knows why, but I’m thinking they just weren’t the varieties that do well in our climate. They were total duds. I’m not making that mistake again!

There will be many varieties of daffodils to choose from, including Jonquillas, Tazettas, Triandrus, and more. They will have the Poeticus ‘Actea’, the Miniature ‘Tete a Tete’, the Triandrus ‘Thalia’, and the Large-cupped ‘Avalon’, all my favorites. On the tulip scene, this year they’re bringing back some of their best-selling bulbs from prior years, including the appropriately named ‘Bestseller’, an early single-flowering tulip, with long-lasting orange, red and yellow petals.  There will be loads of selections of species tulips, Kaufmannianas, Fosterianas, Triumph tulips and Darwin hybrids, and lily-flowers, Parrot and Fringed tulips.

Decisions, decisions! You can choose a few dozen from every single variety, or plan ahead by checking out the Bulb Catalog on the Arboretum’s website, at to help you streamline your shopping and avoid indecision overload.

Not quite sure how to put your bulbs in your garden or what should go where? Author and designer (and 2011 Garden Show speaker) C. Colston Burrell has written an excellent design primer on using spring bulbs, provided by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which you can find at

In addition to having tables laden with bulb selections, there will also be nursery vendors at the Sunday sale with plants for sale, specially selected to be good companions for bulbs. And the Arboretum’s Pat Calvert Greenhouse and Plant Donations Department will also be open from browsing throughout the 2-day event, selling a wide variety of perennials, shrubs and small trees just looking for a home in your garden.

This year the sale will also have a one-time very special feature – Bonsai trees. A generous Arboretum Foundation member donated their collection of Bonsai. The collection has about 20 trees of varying size and age. These beautiful specimens will be on sale, but you had best get to the sale early to buy one, as they will undoubtedly go fast.  Prices range from $30 to $250. To preview the Bonsai collection the catalog is available at

Also new this year will be a children’s table, hosted by educators from the UW Botanic Gardens. On Sunday parents and kids can enjoy free, fall-themed educational opportunities.

As always, parking and admission are free. Bring your own reusable tote bags to help save on bags. The proceeds from this sale helps support the Washington Park Arboretum, a 230-acre living museum of woody plants, with internationally renowned collections of oaks, conifers, camellias, Japanese maples, hollies and other plants from the Pacific Northwest and nearly every temperate region of the world. – Janet

Arboretum Foundation Fall Bulb & Plant Sale
Sunday, October 3, 10 am – 2 pm
Monday, October 4, 10 am – 2 pm
Graham Visitors Center in the Washington Park Arboretum
2300 Arboretum Drive East, Seattle, WA

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