Friday, April 16, 2010

Bulb Obsession

Ok, so maybe it is a minor obsession. But I do love bulbs and invariably plant new ones every year trying to squeeze in just a little more spring color, earlier spring growth and I suppose to test the limits of my already packed borders. So here is my soliloquy on early spring naturalizing bulbs, some of my favorites and some helpful tips.

Chionodoxa: So bright and so blue, their upturned faces look like spring smiles to me.

Crocus: I prefer planting them in a single color range rather than mixing the purple yellow and white. And for color "Queen of the Blues" is my favorite.

Eranthus: They are so early, and the foliage is so different from most of the other bulbs.

Fritillaria: The small F. meleagris, typically sold as a mix, although I do like to separate the colors and both purple and white are gorgeous.

Galanthus: The first bulb to bloom in my garden, right through the snow if they need to.

Narcissus: Too many to choose from, and every year I have new favorites. But one of my most reliable bloomers and naturalizers "Jack Snipe".

Tips to Care for and Plant Bulbs

  • If you want to ‘perennialize’ your bulbs (get them to come back next year) then “Leave the Leaves” until they yellow or turn brown. These important leaves are still gathering energy for next year’s blooms.
  • Most common reason that bulbs stop blooming is they get too crowded. Like perennials – dig up and divide in fall for best results.
  • Fertilize bulbs with 5-10-5 or similar fertilizer in the spring, after bulbs finish blooming and/or in the fall at bulb planting time. Work about a teaspoon into the top of the soil around each clump.
  • Photograph garden while bulbs are in bloom, to remind yourself in the fall of where you want to add bulbs, and which clumps you want to divide.
  • Can remove seedpods before they mature (except Scilla) to divert energy into next spring’s flowers.
  • Most bulbs should be planted 2 to 3 times as deep as the bulb height.
  • Plant in October in our area, not so warm that they put out flowers, but warm enough that they develop roots before ground freezes.
  • Most bulbs don’t like too much shade or wet soils. See individual culture descriptions for exceptions.
  • Squirrels, Moles, Voles, Deer, etc. will dig up or eat many bulbs. Planting them under dense ground cover (such as Vinca) or perennials can help. If problem continues focus on Deer and rodent resistant bulbs or use bulb cages.
  • Misshapen leaves often signify virus infections, dig up and discard bulbs – can spread and kill other bulbs.