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In the Green with Bulbs

It's time to pick your bulbs! This is one of the most anticipated times of fall because this is when you prepare for your big spring extravaganza! There is nothing like dozens of flowers unfurling out of the snow to kick those winter blues to the curb. To ensure you get the bulbs you want, be diligent and buy them early. The selection and quality of the bulbs are at their best as soon as they arrive. Once word gets out that's it, they disappear quickly. It doesn't matter what your preference may be, whether it is tulips at the front entrance, daffodils around the tree trunks or a lawn full of crocuses. This is the time to plan, pick and plant.


 

When planning a spring show, be conscience of how much maintenance you want to expend after they have finished their blooming. Think about the deadheading, dieback, gaps in bed space and how long you intend to keep them in a particular spot for. If Tulips are your favorite and you are aware of the work involved then go for it. If you just want to admire without the work, perhaps naturalizing lawn bulbs that can be cut with the first lawn mowing are for you. Or perhaps you want to switch it up every year and always have a new selection. Whatever your fancy there are many bulbs that will work for you. With strong and healthy bulbs, you can rest assured that your show will be a success; best choices for naturalizing are: Scilla, Muscari, Daffodil, Galanthus, Anemone and Crocus. A formal planting would be best achieved with Tulips.


 

Picking your bulbs is easier than you may think. Pick the biggest and the healthiest bulbs, check for mould, mushiness and overall mechanical damage. There is a direct correlation between the size and health of the bulb and how big the bloom will be. Most nurseries will have bulbs sorted by grade, based on size and condition and priced accordingly. White, firm bulbs with the tunic intact and no growth are the ones you want to get. Keep in mind that if there are open bins for hand picking your bulbs, that there is the possibility of some intermixing of cultivars. If this is a huge concern to you then I suggest pre-packaged to be more appropriate. Getting your goods early will maximize your chances of finding what you want and not getting stuck with what is left.


Plant according to the effect you would like to achieve. If you intend on naturalizing an area, then be sure that there is good drainage to avoid bulb rot. If you intend on removing the bulbs every year, than be sure to get the biggest and the healthiest for the best possible show. If you want to inter-mix them with your perennials, than be aware of die back and gaps throughout the beds, also keep in mind that they will need appropriate sunlight and time to re-charge for the next year. The premature cutting of foliage will result in smaller, weaker flowers the following year. Deadhead as soon as flowers fade, so that all energy will go into food storage and not seed production. This will also keep your display looking fresh for longer.

 

Late September is the best time to plant your bulbs, corms, rhizomes or tubers. This will allow a good 6-8 weeks for root development before the ground freezes.The general rule is to plant three times the height of the bulb (or corm, rhizome etc.) to get your planting depth. For example, if you have a crocus corm, which is usually about an inch high, then it should be planted 3 inches deep. If you have a daffodil, which is about 2 inches high, then it should be planted about 6 inches deep. You can use the chart provided to help assist in any exceptions to the rule. Adding compost and fertilizer will assist in root development however, the bulb has already stored up the nutrients it will need to produce its' flowers in the spring. Loosen soil in hole or trench to help compactous roots pull the bulb down to where it needs to be. Bone meal at the bottom of holes is the most effective root developer. A good, deep watering and some cool temperatures will tuck your gems in for the winter. Planting in larger, odd numbers will help make a more natural look.



Planting bulbs should not be chore; it should be a labor of love. If it is the squirrels that deterre you than simply put small sized chicken wire overtop of bulbs and pin down with bent pieces of cut wire clothes hangers. Grab the kids, significant others and/ or friends and go bulb crazy! Kids love to dig in the dirt especially when they are allowed to! There really is something to be said about being out on a crisp, September day digging up your garden, peeling back the lawn, and getting dirt under the fingernails. Good times!


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