We’ve been blessed with some fairly warm weather for this late in the year, and I suddenly remembered that I haven’t put my bulbs into the ground yet! Project for tomorrow!
Flowering bulbs are one of the brightest spots of spring when you live in the north and enjoy a long winter. Such a dazzling display arising from such homely beginnings is truly miraculous. A minimal amount of time, effort, and money in the fall is rewarded spring after spring with a spectacular tapestry of color, texture, and fragrance.
In addition to true bulbs (daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, and lilies), this plant category includes corms (crocuses and gladioli), tubers (begonias, anemones, and cyclamens), tuberous roots (dahlias and foxtail lilies), and rhizomes (irises and trilliums). When selecting bulbs, choose those that are big, firm, and plump — generally the bigger the bulb the bigger the bloom. Avoid bulbs that are soft or have moldy spots.
When planting, choose a spot with rich, sandy, well-drained soil that is easily viewed from your window and plant bulbs in abundance, en masse, and in natural free-form drifts. Prepare the ground by digging a wide trench and working in compost or leaf mold. A good rule of thumb is to plant the bulbs three times as deep as they are high. Remember that anything too studied looks artificial – then throw caution to the wind and toss a handful of bulbs up in the air. Plant them, root-end-down, wherever they land. This landscaping method is a great stress-buster, and you will be pleased with the results of your no-design-is-the-best strategy.
Or, use a bulb planter to make 6- to 8-inch holes for large bulbs, and 2- to 4-inch holes for smaller bulb species. Space small bulbs 3 to 4 inches apart and large bulbs 5 to 6 inches apart. Topdress with any commercial bulb fertilizer.
With either method, cover bulbs with top soil and water them thoroughly. In cold zones, bulbs can be left in the ground. In warm and temperate zones (where temperatures remain above 20ºF/6ºC), chill the bulbs in a brown paper bag in the refrigerator (away from fruit) for 8 to 10 weeks before planting.
Select bulbs with different bloom times for a show of color from late winter through summer. Left undisturbed, the bulbs will colonize and produce profusely for years to come.
Early bloomers: Snowdrops (Galanthus), Winter Aconites (Eranthus hyemalis), and Crocuses. Crocus tommasinianus, in Easter-egg shades of pale lavender and deep purple, is usually the first to appear (and the corms are squirrel-resistant).
Mid-season: Daffodils and Jonquils (Narcissus), Siberian squill (Scilla), Grape Hyacinth (Muscari)
Late spring: Tulips, tulips, tulips! Colors range from brilliant red to deep maroon, from snowy white to bright yellow, and from beautiful shades of orange to variegated varieties in all colors. Shapes include the scalloped parrot, the pointed lily, and the artistic fringed tulip. Extend your tulip time by growing varieties bred for early, mid, and late blooming.