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Welcome to Bulb of the Year

The Perennial Plant of the Year (PPOY) Committee considers many plants. Committee members are passionate about their plant nominations. To recognize outstanding bulbs for Calgary, the committee created a Bulb of the Year category.

To be selected as Bulb of the Year, the plant must meet all the criteria:

  • suitable and reliable in Calgary growing conditions
  • not overused
  • readily available in garden centres
  • reasonably affordable to purchase

Bulbs selections can be early/mid/late spring flowering, summer flowering that are hardy, and those that naturalize.

The bulbs are display in chronological order from the current year’s designated bulb to previously designate bulbs. Unlike the Perennial Plant of the Year, which is awarded each year, a bulb may not receive a yearly designation.

The Bulb of the Year is announced in the fall.

Tulipa tarda 2022 Bulb of the Year

Tulip tarda Bulb of the Year for 2022
Common Name: Tarda Tulip

Tulipa tarda (tarda tulip or late tulip) is a very showy, low-growing species tulip, native to the sub-alpine meadows of central Asia. It usually blooms in May in Calgary. The clumps of narrow, bright green leaves grow about 10–15 cm high, and are topped with flowering stems bearing clusters of three to six star-shaped, bright yellow flowers with white tips. It is hardy, drought tolerant, and truly perennial in Calgary. The bulbs of the tarda tulip should be planted in the fall, 10–15 cm deep, in full sun and average well-drained soil. Plant in groups of 15 or more, 5 cm apart, for an impressive show. After the flowers have bloomed, allow the foliage to die back naturally; if you want the tulips to naturalize, leave the flowers as well. The seed pods are quite attractive and, if you let the pods dry on the plant, you can collect seeds and direct sow outdoors in fall.

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Chionodoxa forbesii 2021 Bulb of the Year

Blue flower with a white centre. Bulb of the Year for 2021
Common Name: Glory of the snow

Glory of the snow (Chionodoxa forbesii) is a direct translation of the Greek words in its botanical name, chion (snow) and doxa (glory). The stalks are topped with loose racemes of up to 12 outward facing flowers. Each plant has two narrow, upright basal leaves, which die down soon after flowering and seeding, making them relatively unobtrusive.

This prairie-hardy bulb establishes itself well and spreads readily through offsets and
self-seeding and does well in part shade and full sun.

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Fritillaria meleagris 2020 Bulb of the Year

Checkered Lily
Common Name: Checkered Lily

Flowers of the checkered lily (Fritillaria meleagris) are typically 4 cm in size. They are single, pendant, and bell-shaped, but with square shoulders that give them a slightly boxy look. Flowers are held on surprisingly thin, delicate, grey-green stems reaching 30-45 cm, with narrow grass-like foliage spaced out along the stem.

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Allium christophii 2019 Bulb of the Year

Common Name: Star of Persia

Allium christophii, also known as Star of Persia, is one of the most spectacular hardy alliums. Records show it was planted by William Reader at the historic Reader Rock Garden in the early 1900s. 

The globe-shaped flowerheads, up to 30 cm in diameter, rise above the foliage on 35–60 cm tall leafless stems. Each flowerhead is actually a cluster of up to 100 star-shaped, silvery-purple flowers. The bloom period is quite long and the seed heads remain attractive throughout much of the summer.

It blooms in late spring to early summer just as the spring-flowering bulbs begin to fade.

The bulbs of A. christophii must be planted in the fall in holes 10–15 cm deep and 20–30 cm apart in groups of five, seven or more. Alliums love full sun and will grow in most types of well-draining soil. The plant life may be short-lived but are still well worth growing. Allowing the plants to bloom only every second year may prolong the lifespan.

One challenge with alliums is that the foliage begins to wither just as the flowers start to bloom.

Interplanting A. christophii amongst perennials such as Alchemilla mollis (lady’s mantle) or Geranium ‘Rozanne’ will help to hide the dying foliage. Ornamental grasses such as Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Bronzeschlier’ (bronze veil hair grass), and Helictotrichon sempervirens (blue oat grass) make great companions.

Alliums are deer and rabbit resistant and have no serious pest or disease problems.


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