Friday, November 22nd, 2013
November 22nd, 2013
Did you know that now is the very best time to plant hardy bulbs? Yes, indeed. The soil is still warm, however nippy the air. Other autumn garden chores have been completed. The annuals composted, perennials cut down, and the lawn mowed short. So grab your gear and a bag of bulbs and prepare for your spring flower show. With careful planning of early, middle and late bulbs, the spectacle can extend for months.
Where to plant:
Choose freebie space vacated by annuals. Those spots offer room to nest bulbs in for their long winter’s nap. And make sure the plots are exposed to plenty of sun, which most bulbs need to perennialize. Shun wet areas. To mark bulb beds, stick in a few grape hyacinths. Unlike most hardy bulbs, these have leaves which emerge in autumn. The gardener then knows where to scatter fertilizer.
How to plant:
The bulbs go in at the depth recommended in the packaging, accompanied by a bit of granular fertilizer mixed into the bottom soil. Plant pointed side up, and cover with a mixture of compost and garden dirt. If the area has previously been troubled by voles or other digging creatures, soak vulnerable bulbs such as tulips and crocus for one minute in Ropel or other bitter liquid. Allow to dry for several days prior to planting.
What to plant:
Most of us appreciate the strong color and sturdy stems of daffodils, tulips and crocus. But don’t forget the peanut gallery. Chionodoxa and scilla are tiny, critter-resistant bulbs that blossom blue in the early spring garden and are not eaten by deer. Their leaves die back inconspicuously without interfering with the beauty of the springtime garden.
I go for the old fashioned cultivars of daffodils despite the many fancy types available nowadays. The newer ones are gorgeous, with frilled cups and double blooms, but the older “King Alfred” types perennialize better. Also look for “Ice Follies” and “Carlton”.
About the only tulips I plant any more are the Darwin hybrids. These mid-season, strong, colorful flowers will happily return for several years if planted deeply enough and in full sun. Most other tulips, excepting botanical types and some lily-flowering, are best viewed as annuals.
Did you know there are hundreds of types of snowdrops? A clutch of fragrant, tiny snowdrops pushing through the snow in late February brings hope of springtime.
The name “fritillaria” comes from the Latin name for dicebox, which these apparently resemble. They’re tall, checkered flowers related to true lilies, which renders them susceptible to the dreaded lily leaf beetle.
Though they are exquisitely fragrant, and will often perennialize, I don’t plant many hyacinth. They have a formal air about them that doesn’t seem to blend well with my cottage garden. They are, however, easy to plant and admire.
English bluebells spring into color when most bulbs have gone by. The upright stems with fragrant blue pendant flowers attract beneficial insects. They’ll graciously multiply in the semi-shade garden.
Also remember to grab a few allium. Ornamental onions generally bloom later than traditional spring bulbs. Being in the onion family, they are critter–resistant. Ranging in size from humongous to petite, they bring a touch of blue to the border. When finished blooming, spray paint the dried flower heads any hue you desire. They’ll remain colorful all season and no one will know the difference!
Another hardy bulb often overlooked is cyclamen. These shade-loving, dainty pink or white flowers bloom in late fall into winter, and pop up when you’ve forgotten them. Though expensive, if happy they’ll gradually colonize into a sizeable patch.
So there you have it. A bunch of bulb facts, tips, and lore. There’ll be plenty of gorgeous autumn days before the ground freezes in mid-December, so get out there and plant!