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Forcing Bulbs for Christmas

Finding an extraordinary holiday centerpiece is so easy if you take the time to “force bulbs” such as the classic Amaryllis or Paperwhite. It takes approximately 4 to 6 weeks for them to go from bulb to bloom so a trip to a local nursery or garden center NOW is all it takes to locate the bulbs. A starter kit usually comes with a filler (special potting soil containing a medium with ample drainage, or glass beads.) and a container to plant them in. Or, you can save your bulbs from year to year as I do.

About them:

Amaryllis ‘Minerva’

Amaryllis – Show stopper trumpet-looking flowers on tall sturdy stems with bright green shiny leaves. Blooms come in colors of red, white, pink, or a combination such as pink and white.

Paperwhites – According to Greek mythology, Narcissus was smitten with the reflection of himself in a pool of water. He stared at his image until the gods turned him into a flower. Blooms of Paperwhites come in white or cream colors and they have a heavenly fragrance that permeates the room they adorn.

How to Grow Them:

Amaryllis – The filler will be very dry so take a few minutes to soak it before planting the bulb. Place the bulbs with the root side down into the filler and be sure to gently press the filler around the bulb to anchor it in place. Place the bulbs in a bright sunny room. A window sill is a good choice.

Paperwhites – They will do best in a shallow bowl, dish, or a bulb vase.

General Care:

Amaryllis – They will become top heavy, so as the plant grows tall it will require staking to keep the stem supporting the beautiful blooms from tipping.

Paperwhites – Take care not to let the bulbs dry out. Keep them watered. If they are not kept fully hydrated, they will not thrive.

Saving your bulbs from year to year:

After they are completely done blooming, cut off the stalks that the flowers bloomed on. Continue to care for the green leaves (the plant) until spring when they can be transplanted into the ground OR your container can be moved to a sunny location. Feed with an all-purpose fertilizer. Dig up in the fall, trim all of the foliage back to about ¼ inch from the bulb and allow to dry. Start the process over again.

Many a Christmas comes and goes and I wish I had remembered to mark my calendar to give myself the approximate 6 weeks to start these stunning plants.

Well, this year I am going to have an attractive centerpiece, and I hope you will too!

 

by OCMGA Master Gardener Holly Boettcher

Holly is a regular contributor to Appleton Monthly magazine.

Spring Bulbs

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!

RX-DK-HTG04001_spring-bulbs_s4x3_lgFlowering 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.flower-bulbs-494399_960_720

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.

87701Or, 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.

Bulb Farmers Rock!

OCMGA Master Gardener David Calle is passionate about gardens — especially historic gardens and finding a way to incorporate lessons from the past into our own gardens.

From David’s blog explaining the passion behind his blog:  “I created this blog to share my love of gardens and the stories and people behind them.  My passion for historic gardens has taken me to dozens of gardens across 5 continents.  I hope you will join me on this journey and share your comments and experiences.”

I’m crazy about his stories and one of his recent ones “Bulb Farmers Rock” really captured my fancy because, on my bucket list, is a trip to Keukenhof when the bulb fields are all in bloom.

Take a minute to enjoy David’s blog post, and subscribe so you won’t miss future blogs!

http://www.thegoodgarden.com/new-blog/tulips-garden-history-bulb-farmers

Tender Bulbs from the Tropics

The plants known as summer bulbs are like spring bulbs in that they use a wide assortment of true bulbs, corms, rhizomes, and tubers for energy storage. But unlike spring bulbs, they are not frost hardy. Gardeners in temperate zones must plant them each spring and — if they don’t want to keep buying new ones — must also dig them up in fall and store them over the winter.

Glorious bed of gladioli

Although this didn’t bother the Victorians, who were big summer-bulb fans, over time these tender beauties gradually fell out of fashion. Fortunately, fashion is ever changing, and summer bulbs are again a hot item, with new introductions constantly entering the market.

The big four — which never really went away — are cannas, dahlias, gladiolus, and tuberous begonias, but they are just the start of a list that also includes acidanthera, sometimes called the peacock orchid (Gladiolus callianthus), which has tubular white flowers with a deep purple throat; the Mexican shell flower or tiger flower

Agapanthus

(Tigridia pavonia), whose iris-shaped, spotted flowers come in many

bright hues; the Peruvian daffodil or ismene (Hymenocallis narcissiflora), which has fragrant white or yellow daffodil-like blooms; and agapanthus, which has lush clusters of narrow leaves and starry clumps of blue or white flowers.

Want more? How about the bright yellow, orange, and orange-red wands of Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora and its several close relatives; the tall, fragrant, white-flowered Galtonia candicans, sometimes called summer hyacinth; and perhaps most fragrant of all, the tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa).

All these and more are easy to plant, easy to love, and readily available, but to be sure of the widest selection, consult specialty catalogs as well as your local garden center.

by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman

Plant now for a long Tulip season

Tulip lovers stretch the season by planting lots of different species and cultivars. Though each only blooms for a short time, the tulip parade can last two full months if you plan it carefully.

Tulipa fosteriana 'Purissima'

Tulipa fosteriana ‘Purissima’

Early: The first tulips are low to the ground, including the wide-leafed Kaufmannianas, sometimes called water-lily tulips because of the shape of the flowers, and Gregii’s, known for their mottled leaves. Soon after them come Emperor, aka Fosteriana, tulips, the earliest of the long-stemmed types; Single Early, which is usually slightly taller than Emporor; and Double Early, ditto.

Mid Season: Once the days lengthen and weather warms up, you’ll get Triumphs, first of the truly long-stemmed florist’s types, which come in a wider range of colors than the early birds. Also Peony-flowered tulips, known for their lush doubleness; and Giant Darwin, the florist’s tulip on steroids.

Viridiflora tulipan (Viridiflora tulip)

Viridiflora tulipan (Viridiflora tulip)

Late: This is the season for Darwin tulips, also known as Single Late, the classic tall-stemmed cups of color that first come to mind when you hear the word tulip. It’s also the time for exotica: huge Parrot tulips, with their twisted and ruffled petals; urn-shaped Lily-flowered tulips; Viridifloras, with flames of green rising up the outside of the brightly colored flowers; and Fringed tulips, sometimes listed as Tulipa crispa, their petal edges frilled with narrow teeth that glow when the light shines through.

Species: There are dozens of species tulips available, primarily through mail order. Smaller and more delicate than garden tulips, they are mostly mid-season bloomers, with a few earlies, such as the tiny white T. biflora, and a few members of the late show, such as the bright red T. wilsoniana (T. montana). The available array keeps growing, so it is best to buy from a purveyor who is clear about blooming time in the catalog.