Landscaping with Bulbs

Friday, November 20th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • King Alfred daffodils, those big, showy, golden, trumpet-flowered daffodils, can be planted now from bulbs for glorious spring flowers.
    • Dress up your interior landscape with some new houseplants for the holidays ahead.
    • Rake and destroy leaves from fruit trees that were diseased this year.
    • Spray for peach leaf curl with a copper spray. Peach and nectarine trees may suffer from this fungus disease without a protective spray.
    • Liquidambar and Chinese pistache trees can’t be beat for fall color. Choose them now while you can see their bright colors.

Landscaping with Bulbs

One of the things gardeners look forward to in the fall is planting bulbs that will bloom in the spring. It is a simple job that brings big results, but it should be done by the end of November.

Spring bulbs, with their great variety of color, flowering time, plant height and shape are an important addition to any landscape or garden. Since bulbs give us our first spots of color after a long winter, they are always welcome sign of spring. In addition, they need no watering except the winter rains.

Bulbs always look nice planted in front of a section of evergreen shrubs. Many houses have plants up against the house which make a nice backdrop for groupings of bulbs. A border of bulbs planted along the edge of the lawn will add a splash of color to the lawn area. 

Spring bulbs can also be planted under deciduous trees. The bulbs will bloom before the trees leaf out, giving them plenty of light to make strong stems. Some bulbs that perform well under trees and shrubs are grape hyacinths, crocus, snowflakes and daffodils. 

In a perennial bed or border, spring bulbs will bloom during March, April and May before most perennials start to flower. Locate the bulbs in the planting bed so that the dying foliage will not be noticed. Spring bulbs used in the perennial border can be left in the ground the year round or they can be removed and replaced by other plants after flowering is complete.

 Some bulbs can be planted with low growing ground covers like ajuga, violets, creeping thyme or low-growing sedum. Choose bulbs that are at least twice as tall as the ground cover.  Small bulbs like crocus can also be planted in a lawn. They will be finished blooming by the time you get out to mow the grass and they look very cute popping up out of the lawn. 

Spring bulbs will bloom between early February and mid-June. First to bloom are crocus, grape hyacinths and narcissus, followed by hyacinths, daffodils and tulips through April and May. The visual feast ends with Dutch iris and elegant Alliums. 

Planting bulbs of one variety or color in mass will have greater visual impact. Never plant bulbs in a single straight row or in a single circle around a tree or bush, except in very formal gardens. Bulbs look better and more natural when they are planted in masses. 

In small areas, bulbs of one color will make the planting space look larger. In large spaces, a planting of two or three colors can be effective. Plant each color together, don’t intermix them. The color of spring flowering bulbs is enhanced when interplanted with pansies or primroses or other early flowers. 

Try some fun combinations like blue hyacinths or yellow tulips with miniature narcissus. Add some blue pansies for a living bouquet. Plant pink and red tulips together for a living Valentine. Or try a bold mixture of fragrant hyacinths that will light up the border next spring.

Enjoy painting your landscape with beautiful bulbs.

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.

Bulbs and Perennials

Monday, October 6th, 2014 by Jenny Watts
    • Fall is for planting! Trees, shrubs and perennials planted now will grow twice as much next year as those planted next spring.
    • 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.
    • Garlic cloves can be planted now. Keep them watered and weeded through the winter and you will harvest healthy large bulbs next June.
    • Ornamental cabbage makes a dramatic planting in flower beds over the winter.
    • Divide artichoke plants which have been in the ground for three or four years. Mulch established plants with steer manure.

Combining Bulbs and Perennials for Spring Beauty

A spring garden should be full of surprises all season long. From the early crocuses of late winter, through the power and glory of tulips, until the abundant blooms of summer arrive to take their turn, the spring garden should be a showplace. And it can be. All it takes is some planning this fall.

Fall is, of course, the time to plant flowering bulbs such as tulips and daffodils. Fall is also a great time to plant perennials that come up in the spring such as hostas, bleeding hearts, peonies, coral bells, daylilies, and others. Skillful combination of bulbs and perennials can make your garden a showcase next spring.

After flowering, bulbs need to be left alone for about six weeks, until their foliage is brown and withered. The foliage dieback period is necessary for the bulbs to “re-charge” for the next season’s bloom, but it can be unsightly. This is where perennial partners can help out.

As the bulb foliage dies back, the perennial foliage is filling out to cover the waning foliage of the bulbs. This “camouflage” strategy can help keep your garden looking fresh, while your bulb flowers make their exit and the ensuing perennial flower show begins.

But camouflage is only part of the strategy. Emerging perennials also complement tulips and other spring-bloomers in the spring garden, providing contrasting foliage that is quite pleasing. Some will even bloom together.

Dicentra spectabilis (bleeding heart), with its fern-like leaves and arching sprays of heart-shaped flowers, adds a graceful romantic tone to the early spring garden. After it blooms, the foliage dies back for the summer. Dicentra eximia ‘Luxuriant’ is a lovely old-fashioned plant with ferny, gray-green foliage and sprays of pink, heart-shaped flowers from May to September. They prefer shady conditions, but can handle full winter sun under deciduous trees.

Hemerocallis (daylilies) are another good bulb foliage concealer with dense strappy foliage that comes up in spring. Depending on the variety, it can provide weeks – or even months – of summer bloom. Daylilies and daffodils are a classic combination. Planted together, daffodils and ever-blooming daylilies can provide bloom from April till October in the same spot.

Hostas with large, colorful leaves of green, chartreuse, blue-tones, golden-green, and green edged in white, are perfect partners for daffodils. As the daffodils mature, the hostas expand to their full glory and camouflage the fading bulb foliage. Use in areas that get morning sun.

Penstemons and yarrows are usually cut back in the winter, which gives spring bulbs room to display their glory. When they start growing, they will cover the browning foliage as the bulbs fade.

Of course pansies and violas also make an excellent bulb companions as they will bloom from now through next spring.

Make your spring garden a masterpiece with some planning this fall.