Potted Bulbs for the Patio

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Spray citrus and other tender plants with Cloud Cover to give them some protection from frosts.
    • Enjoy birds in your garden by hanging bird feeders around the yard. You’ll see many different kinds as they migrate through this fall.
    • Empty birdbaths and fountains and cover them for the winter, to prevent water freezing and cracking the bowls.
    • Cut asparagus down to about two inches above the ground once all of the foliage has died. Mulch asparagus beds with three inches of well-rotted manure.
    • There’s still time to plant garlic sets for an easy crop that you can harvest next spring. Choose California white, Spanish roja or Elephant garlic varieties now available.

Potted Bulbs for the Patio

Gardeners have been growing bulbs in pots and other containers for hundreds of years. Planting bulbs in containers gives you the opportunity to enjoy the fragrance and beauty of their flowers up close, to experiment with bulbs that are new to you, and to easily change the look of your garden every year.

Bulbs in containers have different needs than those planted directly in the ground. Compared to a flower bed, any container holds just a small amount of soil. As with any container planting, you need to supply everything the bulb needs.

When the water in soil freezes, it expands, and that can easily break terra cotta, ceramic, and even rigid plastic pots. To avoid this, plant your bulbs in flexible plastic pots – common black plastic nursery pots, for example – and then slip these pots into decorative cache-pots in the spring when the bulbs start to bloom.

Bulbs in pots are typically planted much closer together and less deep than bulbs in the ground. Plant bulbs so they’re close but not touching, with their tips just below the soil surface. The goal is to leave as much room as possible under them for root growth. Arrange tulip bulbs with their flat side facing out for a neater display of leaves.

Cold is essential for winter bulbs like tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. Place the pots in a cold, dark location like an unheated garage or garden shed – somewhere chilly but where the temperature doesn’t drop below freezing – for fastest rooting. Keep the soil moist but not soggy wet. It takes 3 or 4 months for these cold-hardy bulbs to root.

When they’re ready to be moved, you will see roots coming out the drainage holes at the bottom of the pots or new stem growth at the top that’s about two inches high. Then move them to a sunny patio or deck and sit back to enjoy the show. In about three weeks, you will be delighted by the beauty that you have created in your containers.

For the most part, it’s best to just plant one type of bulb in each container. But there are a few combinations that work well together. One called “February Starlight” combines dark blue hyacinths with a sweet little rock garden narcissus. They will bloom for you in early spring.

Of course, you can plant three different kinds of fragrant narcissus together in a pot and they will bloom together and perfume the air around them.

Paperwhite Narcissus don’t need to be chilled first like others do. You can grow them in a pot in soil, or in a bowl with just rocks and water. Plant them either way, then place the containers in a cool, dark place – like a closet indoors – for 2-3 weeks, until the shoots are an inch or two tall. Then move them to a bright location, with no direct sunlight, and enjoy their beauty and fragrance in your home.

Enjoy the magic of spring bulbs indoors or outside in all your living areas, by planting them this month.

Growing Great Daffodils

Friday, September 25th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Replace tired petunias with bright pansies, snapdragons, calendulas and stock for garden color this fall and winter.
    • Plant cover crops in areas of the garden that have finished producing for the summer. Crimson clover and fava beans will grow over the winter and enrich the soil for next year.
    • It’s time to divide overgrown perennials that bloomed in the spring or early summer. It’s also a good time to choose and plant some new varieties.
    • Apples, pears and other fruit trees can be planted in the fall from containers to get a head start on next spring.
    • Mums are the beauties of the fall garden. Choose plants now in a wide variety of colors.

Growing Great Daffodils

Daffodils are some of the easiest bulbs to grow. Under good growing conditions, they will live for many years and probably outlast any of us. While some kinds of bulbs tend to dwindle and die out, daffodils increase.

Daffodils, Narcissi, Jonquils and Paperwhites are all essentially variants of the same flower: they are all members of the genus Narcissus. Here we will talk about the most popular Daffodils: the trumpet Daffodils and the long cup Daffodils.

Trumpet Daffodils have the “traditional” daffodil form: there is one large blossom per stem and the trumpet is exceptionally long. They have a long blooming season and very large flowers. They are excellent for naturalizing.

The well-known ‘King Alfreds’ with their bright yellow, trumpet flowers have largely been replaced by better varieties such as ‘Dutch Master.’ Now the standard of yellow trumpet daffodils, it is an heirloom variety introduced in 1938.

Long cup Daffodils have the full color range: white, and every possible shade of yellow, pink, orange, and red. They come in a wide variety of cup shapes: ruffled, trumpet-like or flat. They are good for beds, borders, as cut flowers, and for indoor forcing.

To grow great daffodils you should choose a well-drained, sunny place. Hillsides are excellent spots to place drifts of bulbs where they will make an eye-catching display for passersby. Creek-sides, shrub borders, woodland gardens and raised beds are ideal, but drainage is the key. Spade at least twelve inches deep adding a little well-rotted compost to heavy soils.

If planted properly, naturalized bulbs can live and bloom for many years with a minimum of care. When planting bulbs in a natural area to be left undisturbed for years, plant them deeply, so that their tops are at least eight inches deep.

Daffodils will grow in the shade of deciduous trees because they finish flowering by the time deciduous trees leaf out. However, it is better to grow them outside the drip line of deciduous trees rather than under them. Daffodils will not survive for a long time under evergreen trees and shrubs.

One reason for the longevity of daffodils is that squirrels, gophers and other rodents will not eat them. Deer also tend to leave them alone.

Daffodils bloom for almost six weeks in the spring garden. After blooming, leave the bulbs alone while the foliage is still green. The green leaves are rebuilding the bulb for the next year, and this is a good time to fertilize your bulbs. When the leaves begin to yellow, then you can cut the leaves off but not before.

Daffodils multiply, and after a few years you may need to thin them out, if they become crowded and are not blooming well. Dig them up in midsummer and replant them six inches apart.

In some cases, daffodils can be grown with ground covers. They do well planted with shallow-rooted, trailing plants, such as potentilla, creeping thyme and blue star creeper, but vigorous and deeply rooting plants, such as rosemary and ivy are likely to discourage daffodils.

“A host of golden daffodils” is certainly one of the glories of spring, and now is the time to plant daffodil bulbs. Plant a variety of daffodils for a wonderful display in the garden and beautiful bouquets in the home.

Time to plant spring-flowering bulbs

Saturday, November 6th, 2010 by Jenny Watts

Hope Springs Eternal

Spring-flowering bulbs are such a welcome sight when they begin blooming in early February. Although these bulbs produce their flowers in the spring, they must be planted in the fall. Spring flowering tulip, hyacinth, daffodil, crocus and iris bulbs can be planted now so you can enjoy that profusion of color the next spring.

Groupings of bulbs throughout the landscape will accent and highlight the garden. When used in naturalized settings of tall evergreens or among trees and broadleaf evergreens, they are particularly effective.

They can be used in borders, for bedding or for background color. Groupings or drifts of several types often create outstanding color effects. With some planning it is possible to enjoy their beauty and color from January to May.

Bulbs can be effectively used in containers, too. They can provide spot color on the patio, in the entry area, near the driveway or in the home. Most varieties do equally well in the ground or in containers.

Crocus offer some of the finest early spring color. Dutch Crocus have large flowers and begin blooming in late February. Colors range from white, lavender, purple and yellow to striped white and lavender. They grow to only 4”-6” tall and are effective in borders, and groupings and they come back year after year.

The bright yellows, whites, and pinks of Daffodils are outstanding in the garden or on the hillside. When used among evergreens, in naturalized plantings or in combinations with crocus, they are truly outstanding. They are extremely easy to grow, requiring very little care after planting, and they multiply and bloom again each spring. As a bonus, deer and rodents don’t eat daffodil bulbs.

Fragrant Paperwhite Narcissus can be grown indoors or out in the garden. They come up very early and can be forced to bloom by Christmas. The large clusters of pure white flowers will scent the whole room.

Hyacinths add beauty and fragrance to the garden. Their use is more limited than the other bulbs mentioned because they are stiff and formal and do not naturalize as well. When used in containers, in formal plantings or for borders, they are very effective. This is an excellent bulb to use near the entry area, in the home or wherever foot traffic is heavy because of the intense fragrance they give off.

Tulips are among the most popular spring flowers of all time. They they come in an incredible variety of colors, heights, and flower shapes. Plant them in borders, in rock gardens, or in containers. Most tulips bloom well for only one or two years. So you will probably want to dig up the bulbs and put in new ones after two years. However, Darwin Hybrids and Emperor Tulips will come back looking great year after year. There is a variety to match every color in the spectrum.

There are a number of low growing early spring bulbs make great companions in the flower bed or under spring-flowering shrubs. The little blue flowers of Chionodoxa, or “Glory of the Snow”, and Muscari, or “Grape Hyacinths”, make a carpet of blues as they naturalize and spread. Iris reticulata has large, fragrant flowers on dwarf plants and Puschkinia has little tiny star-shaped flowers in palest blue clumped on one stem. Anemones and ranunculus can also be planted now for spring flowers.

Look forward to the beauty of spring and new beginnings with beautiful flowering bulbs.