Sunday, October 5, 2008

Time for Bulbs

I apologize for the lack of blogs recently. In early September I took the youngest daughter back to school in Boston, then got busy at work– but now I seem to have my muse back so here we go.

I have been in my house a full year and have seen the full range of seasons. I am beginning to see what is lacking in the landscape. One thing that I missed last spring was spring bulbs. At my old house I had planted hundreds of bulbs and this spring at this house there were like three. Now that the weather has cooled (I cracked up reading my last blog about the lack of rain!) we can think about planting bulbs. If you plant them too early in the season, we can get a cool down and then a warm up and the bulbs are fooled into thinking they have been through the cool down period. You really can fool Mother Nature sometimes.

I love driving down Woodstock Street in Crystal Lake in the early spring to see the scilla in bloom in the lawns of the houses near the intersection of Oak and Woodstock. Yesterday I planted a bag of scilla bulbs in the middle of the front lawn. I also planted daffodils in the planters on either side of the front door and in the lawn in front of the planters. I think this will create an interesting transition between the lawn and the planters as well as soften the hard edges of the brick paver planters.

I think, too, the blue of the scilla and the yellow daffodils will be a nice combination in case they end up blooming at the same time. Both bloom early, but the scilla is the earlier bloomer. So much of when plants bloom depends on the weather but again, as a general rule, crocus and snow drops bloom early, usually in March, followed by daffodils, and then tulips. For summer blooms you can plant alliums for dramatic impact and fall crocuses and colchicums for blooms in September and October. In fact, you can have more than 100 days of blooms with bulbs alone and in a small space if you plant them at different heights. Bulbs are really very versatile and, because the blooms usually last a long time, a great investment.

One bulb variety that may be of interest to those plagued with deer and rabbits is fritillary, sometimes called snakes head. This bulb blooms later in the spring and has lovely bobbing heads and the best thing is it is deer and rabbit resistant. Also deer and rabbit resistent are daffodils.
We get asked a lot of questions about planting bulbs and two of the most common are "What side goes up?" and "How deep do you plant them?" Bulbs usually have a pointy end and a flatter end. The pointy end is the top and the flat side is where the roots grow but don’t worry if you plant them upside down. Bulbs are "geo-tropic," which means they know which way to grow and can "right" themselves to the correct orientation. How deep you plant the bulb depends on how big the bulb is. A general rule is to plant the bulb 3x the depth of the bulb, so a 1" bulb will be planted 3 inches deep. Don’t get too worried about measuring from the top or the bottom of the bulb, close enough is good enough. You can bury bulbs too deep and if you do you will notice little or no flowering, but an inch one way or the other will not make a difference.
For more information on fall bulbs, stop by Countryside and talk to any of the green house staff. There are several web sites that also have good information as well. The International Flower Bulb Centre, run by the Netherlands bulb growers at is full of excellent information as is the site run by Van Bloem Gardens (where all my pictures came from)

No comments: