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.

Landscaping with Bulbs

Saturday, December 5th, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • Plant Paperwhite narcissus in pots for Christmas gifts.
    • Dress up your interior landscape with some new houseplants for the holidays ahead.
    • Spray for peach leaf curl with copper sulfate. Peach and nectarine trees may suffer from this fungus disease without a protective spray.
    • Plant bright red amaryllis in pots now for Christmas gifts.

Light Up Your Garden With Spring Bulbs

Flowering bulbs, with their great variety of bloom 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 harbingers 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, leucojums 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, vinca minor or English ivy.  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 and grape hyacinths, followed by 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.  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 can be effective. Plant each color together, don’t intermix them. The color of spring flowering bulbs is enhanced when interplanted with pansies or other compatible early flowers.

Try some fun combinations like blue hyacinths with grape hyacinths and white, miniature narcissus. Add some blue pansies for a living bouquet. Plant yellow-and-white daffodil ‘Ice Follies’ with ‘Golden Apeldoorn’ Tulips, or cream-and-pink ‘Elegant Lady’ Tulips with a mixture of pink -and-white daffodils. 

Enjoy painting your landscape with beautiful bulbs.

The Magic of Spring Bulbs

Monday, November 2nd, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • Liquidambar and Japanese maple trees can’t be beat for fall color. Choose them now while you can see their bright colors.
    • 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.
    • Bright purple, ornamental kale makes a dramatic planting in flower beds over the winter.
    • Plant ground covers to cover slopes and large open areas. Water until the rains come, and they will fill in and cover the area next year.

Potted Bulbs for the Holidays

You can enjoy a bit of springtime in the middle of winter by forcing bulbs to bloom indoors. Blooming flowers in the middle of winter are always a welcome sight. They make lovely gifts for friends and relatives alike. If you would like to grow some flowering bulbs for the holidays, it’s time to get started with that project now.

Starting in October or November, there are only two types of bulbs that you can have blooming by Christmas: Amaryllis and Paperwhite narcissus. Other bulbs, like crocus and hyacinths can be started now but will not bloom until February.

Beautiful amaryllis hybrids come from Holland, and are available as named varieties in many separate colors. These hybrid strains have impressively large flowers, 8 to 9 inches across and 4 to 6 flowers to a stem, often with two stems growing from each bulb. The color range includes bright reds, salmon, soft pink, coral pink, white and red-and-white.

These large-flowered amaryllis are easily grown in 6-inch pots. Keep the potted bulbs in a cool light place at about 50° until the roots are well developed. When leaves start to appear, move them into a warmer room. Bulbs bloom in about six weeks from planting.

Narcissus are easy to grow in soil or in a bowl of rocks and water. Nestle the bulbs into the rocks and fill with water just up to the base of the bulbs. Treat like amaryllis, and they will bloom in 5 to 6 weeks, with lovely, fragrant flowers.

There are attractive pots for forcing crocus and hyacinths indoors. Crocus pots hold ten bulbs and hyacinth vases only one. Both of these need 12 to 14 weeks of cooling, during which time the roots are developing. You can place them in a refrigerator, or a place where temperatures stay below 45° and above freezing.

Tulips can be forced for mid-winter flowers starting this month. Use as many bulbs as can fit in the pot without touching. The more in the pot, the more dramatic the flower show. Plant the bulbs with the flat side near the edge of the pot, with just the bulb noses showing above the soil, and water them well.

Tulips need 12 to 14 weeks of cooling, during which time the roots are developing. You can place them in a refrigerator, or an unheated attic, or any place where temperatures stay below 45° and above freezing.

When the roots are well-developed, bring them into a bright room and they will bloom in 2 to 3 weeks. Although they won’t be blooming by December, you can start these bulbs now and they will be well on their way for holiday gifts. Or hold on to them and bring them into bloom by Valentine’s Day!

Enjoy the magic of spring bulbs in your home this winter.