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Our world would be a much happier place if we all planted spring flowering bulbs this autumn.
And more of us would do it if planting them were a lot of fun. However, if your timing is off,
you have to brave the cold winds, dig many little holes, add the right amount of fertilizer, and
plant the bulbs at the proper depth. Moreover, unlike flowering annuals, you have to wait months
to reap the colorful, flower rewards. While its hard work, the rewards are really great. Erruptions
of color bursting forth from dreary ground warm the heart and provide the strewgnth to plant on a
bone-chilling spring day.
Plant away - Go out and do your part for your friends, neighbors and your yard, plant some
spring flowering bulbs. There is no need to plant a million of them ó a few daffodils and
tulips will do for a start. But if you get an inspiration while bulb shopping, and I guarantee
you will, donít be afraid to try something new.
Camassia, also called Indian hyacinth, a North American native, produces tall spikes of
1-inch violet flowers above handsome straplike foliage in May. Two years ago, a friend of
mine planted them in the ground cover in a part-shade area of her city garden, and they gave
her an outstanding repeat performance again this past spring.
Tulips, especially the fancy varieties, donít rebloom the following season, so many gardeners
treat them as annuals. Their large, richly colored blooms make them the stars of the show in
the spring garden, so I plant them where the annuals grace the garden in summer and when
their time has passed, the spent bulbs go in the compost pile.
ďIf you have sandy soil and a sunny spot thatís very dry in summer, thatís the place to
perennialize tulips,Ē says heirloom bulb guru Scott Kunst of Old House Gardens.ďChoose
antique tulips, they were bred to perennialize, and they thrive on neglect.Ē Spring bulbs
are best planted in bunches so they look like bouquets when in bloom. Plant in a circle or
a square and plunk a bulb or two in the middle. Tulips planted in straight rows look like
little soldiers standing at attention. To extend the season of bloom, I plant both early and
Here are tips to make planting easier:
- For years, we were told to add bone meal or bulb fertilizer to the hole
when planting. But today that protocol is subject to debate. Many
renowed gardeners say that there is no need to add fertilizer to each
planting hole. Bulbs contain all the nutrients they need to grow and
bloom the first year, so they donít need to be fertilized when planted.
Also, critters above and below the ground are attracted to bone meal,
so make your life easier and pass on this step.
- However, adding organic material at planting time is good for the soil
and thatís good for the bulbs, so is mulching with shredded leaves after
planting. Fertilize perennial bulbs in fall by broadcasting a slow release
fertilizer on the soil surface.
- Getting bulbs planted at the proper depth makes a lot of gardeners nuts,
especially folks who are compelled to do everything by the books. Experts
tell us bulbs should be planted at a depth of 2 to 3 times the height of
- Renowned Dutch garden designer Jacqueline van der Kloet, consultant for
Tulip World, recommends deep planting. Many other gardeners follow this
school of thought. For a quick measuring guide, use a stick marked at three
times the height of the bulbs as a depth gauge. That way, if your hole depth
is off a bit, it wonít matter and you can rest easy at night knowing you did
the right thing. Use your pointer finger as a quick measuring guide. From
the tip to the first knuckle it measures 2 inches, and from the tip to the
second knuckle it measures 4 inches.
- Worried you didnít plant them deep enough? Just pile on an inch or more
of leaf mulch and soil and create a raised bed. For creative ideas and help
coordinating colors, designing bulb gardens and selecting the best bulbs for
your planting site, check out the posting board at Roger's Gardens.