Spring Bulbs Need Fall Planting – Time to go shopping

  • Post published:09/11/2020
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Scillas blooming in the April lawn
The tiny spring bulbs of Scillas don’t look like much but in the spring they reflect the blue skies.

Fall is the season for planting – bulbs! Gardeners always have to think ahead if they want springtime flowers and it is bulbs that produce that brilliance.

I love bulbs because they give us color and hope early in the spring. Since we moved to Greenfield I have planted some spring bulbs. Purple and golden crocuses bloom in March under the lilac tree. I think I should add at least a few more. My snowdrops also bloom in March. Many daffodil varieties bloom along the sidewalk in April. Grape hyacinths bloom in mid March well through April under the river birch.

Grape hyacinth foliage in the early spring
Grape Hyacinths, muscari, foliage in the early spring

I love the grape hyacinths, but I have learned a lot about them that gardeners have to think about. After the first year my grape hyacinths bloomed, the foliage died after the blossoms did. The following spring the grape hyacinths bloomed, and again the flowers and foliage died and left an empty spot. However, in the fall I noticed some greenery growing up in that space. I was too busy to weed it at the time, but soon there was too much of that greenery and I started to pull it up – and found little bulbs attached to the foliage. Grape hyacinth  bulbs were growing all over the place including into the nearby daylilies. This could not continue!

Grape hyacinths Muscari
Grape Hyacinths, Muscari, in full bloom in mid-May

I dug up some of those bulbs and foliage and gave them away. I did learn that I should not have been surprised. Information in the catalogs does give information about them naturalizing and sending up foliage in the fall. My lesson – pay attention to all the information in the catalogs.

There are many other springbulb plants that bloom in the spring including tulips, which many people consider annual flowers because they often die out after a year or two. Alliums, ornamental onions, range from giant globes to pendulous explosions of bloom in late spring and into summer. Fritillaries can be dwarf with delicate nodding blossoms or two foot tall large dramatic flowers that bloom in late spring.

Nameless Daffodils in mid-April growing along our sidewalk

For myself this year, I am thinking about planting more daffodils. Instead of the patches of different varieties growing next to the sidewalk, I am thinking about a single variety that will form a ribbon of bloom in front of the new rose bed. I want to choose an early bloomer that will be finished before the roses begin to bloom in mid-June.

I am considering the 10 inch tall Wisley with slightly reflexed white petals and frilly yellow cups that blooms in early to mid-spring. Having chosen this daff, I think I will add some Eranthus, winter aconite. This buttercup relative produces three to four inch lemony yellow blossoms above flat green foliage. The name winter aconite does give an idea of when it might bloom.

Choosing spring bulbs is one thing. The next thing is calculating when and how to plant the bulbs when they arrive – and it is time right now to order.

I looked back at dated photos I took of daffodils, grape hyacinths and crocuses. Crocus bloom in March, and daffodils and grape hyacinths bloom in April and well into May depending on the variety.

The advice is to plant six weeks before a hard frost. We have had snowy Thanksgiving celebrations, so I am calculating six weeks back from November 26 this year. I plan to put my bulbs in the ground around October 17.

Spring bulbs are best planted in groups. I dig a hole that can hold several bulbs. I make the hole bigger and deeper than necessary because I take the opportunity to enrich the soil with compost, and maybe a bit of 10-10-10 fertilizer, before it goes back into the hole.

Daffodil bulbs, and other bulbs of the two or three inch size, should be planted so that two inches of soil will be over the bulb. For instance, a 2 inch long bulb should be planted 4 inches deep, and a 3 inch long bulb should be planted 5 inches deep. Daffodils should be planted 5or 6 inches apart. Remember the pointy tip is the top of the bulb.

The circular grape hyacinth bulbs are similar in size and should all be planted three inches deep and three inches apart.

Crocus should be planted two inches deep and three inches apart.

I mix the soil that I took out of the hole mixed with compost and cover the bulbs. Watering the planted bulbs immediately is very important. Watering will wake up the bulbs and start them growing. Keep watering them until there is rain. In the spring you will have warming color and encouragement as spring begins.

An assortment of spring blooming bulbs will be available at the Greenfield Farmers Cooperative. Online companies including: Brent and Becky’s, https://www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com; John Scheepers  https://www.johnscheepers.com; and Old House Gardens that specializes in heirloom bulbs https://oldhousegardens.com are also ready to be perused with bulbs for sale

Between the Rows  September 5, 2020

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