Light up the Garden with Bulbs!

Friday, October 17th, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • Plant pansies, snapdragons, stock, calendulas and primroses now to replace summer annuals.
    • Divide artichoke plants which have been in the ground for three or four years. Mulch established plants with steer manure.
    • Protect the pond from the worst of the leaf fall with a fine-mesh net over the surface of the pond.
    • Garlic sets can be planted now for an easy crop that you can harvest next spring.
    • Plant cover crops in the garden where summer plants have finished. Fava beans and crimson clover will grow through the winter and improve your soil for spring planting.

Landscaping with Bulbs

Landscaping with bulbs is a great way to make your home beautiful year after year. With just a little effort, you can create dazzling carpet of spring color.

Bulbs are much more impressive when planted en masse. Uniform color and texture creates an impressive visual effect. To make this happen requires a little planning.

The novice gardener often makes the mistake of planting tulips or daffodils in a straight line along a walkway like ducks in a row. It is much better to plant them in groups of at least a dozen. In fact the best way to make an impact with a small grouping of bulbs is to plant them in a triangle formation with the point of the triangle toward the viewer. This will fool the eye into seeing more flowers than you have actually planted!

Of course, if you have the room to plant 50 bulbs of a kind, you can have a really spectacular show. In Holland at Keukenhof Gardens, they plant 70 acres of bulbs to bloom each spring, in huge drifts of solid colors. Their fabulous display gardens are world famous. An interesting technique that they use is planting in layers.

Bulbs are planted on top of each other, in different layers.  The late-blooming tulips are placed deepest in the ground; above them early-blooming tulips; and above them crocus. This way flowers will bloom at the same spot in the park, from early in the season until late in the season, giving a continuous display of color.

Plant bulbs of one color in small spaces in the landscape. One color will have greater impact and make the planting space look larger. In large spaces, a planting of two or three colors will have the best effect. Select colors that blend together and don’t mix them: group each color together in interlocking shapes.

Another way to use bulbs for landscaping is called “naturalizing”. Naturalizing is the process of imitating nature by planting in irregular clumps scattered over the landscape. A grassy hillside dotted with yellow daffodils is a glorious sight.

Most bulbs like to be planted in full sun, though some will tolerate partial shade. It works well to plant under deciduous trees because the bulbs will bloom before the trees leaf out, so they will get the sun they need.

You can also interplant bulbs and pansies for a long-lasting spring flower show. Plant the pansies between the bulbs so the bulbs can easily come up between them. You can choose pansies with faces, or the solid colored ones. Little violas also make a lovely ground cover over bulbs.

Bulbs are one of the easiest ways to add beauty and color to the landscape. And this is the time to plant spring-flowering bulbs so they will be ready to flower next spring.

Fall is for Planting

Monday, October 13th, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • Chrysanthemums are the brightest flowers for the fall garden. Plant some now.
    • Crimson clover, fava beans and rye grass will fortify your garden soil over the winter. Seed these crops as you compost your summer vegetables.
    • Fragrant Paperwhite narcissus will bloom indoors by Thanksgiving if planted now in rocks and water.
    • Choose shade trees for fall color now and plant them while the soil is warm and easy to dig.
    • Watch out for Jack Frost! On these cold nights, cover summer vegetable plants that are still producing to extend the harvest.

Fall is for Planting!

These recent rains have created the perfect situation for fall planting! With the soil moist and the creeks starting to flow, this is a great time to put some plants in the ground.

Fall is the best time to plant, especially if you’re tackling major projects like putting in a new flower bed or border. Transplanted now, plants ease into the garden naturally. Trees, shrubs, lawns, ground covers and spring-blooming bulbs will all get established over the winter and be ready to survive their first hot summer more easily.

In the fall the soil is still warm and roots begin to grow rapidly as soon as they are planted. Cooler air temperatures put less stress on newly planted trees and shrubs, and watering needs are less. Once the rains begin in earnest, the plants receive plenty of water encouraging deep rooting as the roots continue to develop through the winter. These plants will be much more drought tolerant and not need to be watered as often next summer.

Fall is the ideal time to plant a tree — both for the gardener and the tree! The weather is cooler, so it is more enjoyable working outdoors. The tree also benefits because the soil is better able to retain moisture now than during the hot days of summer, so it becomes established easily. Trees and shrubs will show no growth above ground, but by having time to develop a strong root system over the winter, they will be ready for a major growth spurt next spring. Studies have shown that trees and shrubs planted in the fall will grow between one-and-a-half and two times as much next summer as the same tree or shrub planted next spring.

Lawns and ground covers do best when planted in the fall. The cool season grasses, which do best in this area, are most vigorous in fall and spring. By the time next summer rolls around, your lawn will be well-established and ready to enjoy. They will be able to survive on weekly deep-waterings.

Ground cover plants need to establish strong roots before they can begin top growth. This is the ideal time to plant them to get the most growth next spring and summer.

Perennial flowers like foxglove, coral bells, columbine and lupines need to live through a winter before they will bloom. When you plant them from six-packs in the spring, you have to wait a whole year to see them bloom. But if you plant them in the fall, you can enjoy their blooms next spring.

Daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and other spring bulbs must be planted in the fall to enjoy their beauty next spring. They need several months to develop roots before they can bloom. By choosing different varieties, you can enjoy spring flowers from late winter through spring. For an early glimpse of spring, plant crocuses and grape hyacinth. Daffodils bloom next followed by tulips, iris and alliums. Once planted, these bulbs will brighten your spring garden with their lovely colors each year and need very little care.

Fall is here, so don’t miss the best planting season of the year.

Fall is for Planting!

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • Garlic cloves can be planted now. Choose from Early White, Late Pink, Spanish Roja or Elephant Garlic. Keep them watered and weeded through the winter and you will harvest healthy large bulbs next June.
    • Cover crops should be planted in the garden as soon as you pull out summer crops. They will feed the soil and prevent erosion over the winter.
    • Bulbs, bulbs, bulbs! It’s time to plant tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus and many other flower bulbs for beautiful blooms next spring.
    • Plant snapdragons, pansies and violas for color this fall, winter and next spring.
    • Rose of Sharon, with its hibiscus-like flowers, is a lovely summer to fall bloomer in our climate. It grows 6 to 8 feet tall in full sun or part shade, and makes a fine, small patio tree.

Heavenly Hyacinths

The Hyacinth family is relatively small compared to other bulbs. Native to the Mediterranean region and South Africa, they were made famous by the Dutch in the 18th century. In fact, they became so popular that 2,000 kinds were said to be cultivated in Holland, the chief commercial producer, at that time.

The common, or Dutch, hyacinth has a single dense spike of star-shaped flowers ranging in color from pure white to yellow, salmon, pink, blue, purple, and near red. Colorful as its flowers may be, the true joy of the Dutch hyacinth lies in its delightful, pervading fragrance. Even a few bulbs suffice to instill the garden with a heady scent.

The peculiarities of the soil and climate of Holland are so favorable to the production of hyacinths that Dutch florists have made a specialty of growing them. Virtually all hyacinth bulbs available in this country are imported from Holland.

Plant bulbs 4 to 6 inches deep and 6 to 8 inches apart, in a sunny, well-drained area in beds and borders. They are especially appropriate for formal plantings. Plant a few near a doorway so the heady perfume can waft inside each time to door is opened.

For a more informal look, mix hyacinths of various colors with tulips, daffodils, pansies, primroses and other spring-blooming flowers. They make excellent cut flowers.

Few plants are better adapted than the hyacinth for forcing in pots. By starting them in early September, they can be forced into bloom as early as Christmas. To keep up a succession of bloom, others should be potted every few weeks through November.

When planting, the pot should be loosely filled with enough planting medium so the top of the bulbs will be even with the top of the pot. Place 1 hyacinth bulb in a 4-inch pot, 3 bulbs in a 6-inch pot, and as many as possible in larger pots. You can also grow them in hyacinth vases, special glass vases with a pinched neck and bulb-sized “cup” at the top.

Either way, you need to keep them in a cool, dark place (from 35° to 48°F) for 13 weeks to establish roots. Then bring them into the light and they will quickly send up a flower spike and bloom in 2 to 3 weeks. Hyacinths can be planted in the garden after they are finished blooming. Many of them will flower again after 1 to 2 years.

Planted in clumps of single colors or arranged in masses of contrasting colors, they add a bright and happy tone to the garden. Forced for indoor display, they fill the house with a heavenly fragrance.