Still time to plant

  • Post published:10/29/2009
  • Post comments:2 Comments


            While at the Shelburne Farm and Garden shop the other day, a woman stopped me to ask if it was too late to plant tulips.  Absolutely not! I had gone into the shop myself to pick up a package of Angelique tulip bulbs, a beautiful pink double tulip that is one of the most popular bulbs sold.

            Fall is bulb planting season and it will last pretty much until the ground is frozen. However, it is best however to get bulbs in the ground when there is still time for the roots to develop.

There are so many spring blooming bulbs to choose from beginning with very early blooming snowdrops and winter aconite to the whole narcissus family (daffodils), tulips, and the summer blooming lilies. Each has somewhat different requirements, but all need sun.

I have planted the small bulbs, snowdrops, winter aconite, scillas, glory of the snow and grape hyacinths in the lawn, and in beds with no extra soil preparation. Because these bulbs are so small they need only be planted three or four inches deep. All will multiply nicely. Since I have planted these in the lawn I like to make sure the lawn gets a late final mowing so they are not totally hidden long dead grass in early spring.  Of course, the grass cannot be mowed again in the spring until the bulb foliage has ripened and given new strength to the bulb.

The family of narcissus which includes all daffodils is huge, with early, mid, and late season bloomers. There are elegant single varieties and varieties that produce several blossoms on a single stem. There are white, yellow, bi color and pink varieties. Some are petite with small blossoms, while others are tall, and some have ruffled double blossoms.

Many daffodils naturalize easily. They will increase in number and need little care. Planting directions often suggest planting with bone meal. Bone meal supplies phosphorous, and since I almost always have a bag of rock phosphate around I use this when I am planting bulbs. Sufficient phosphorous is essential for good root development.

One of the nice things about growing narcissus, is that rodents will not eat the bulbs, allowing them to increase.

One of the things that daffodil gardeners find hardest to manage is that the foliage must be allowed to ripen for at least six weeks after blooming before being cut back.  I have handled, or mishandled, this issue myself. I planted many daffodils in the lawn, imagining a sea of sunshine in the spring. I did not calculate that I couldn’t mow that section of lawn until just about a week before the Annual Rose Viewing at the End of June. This does not make for a very handsome lawn. I have spent a lot of time digging up these daffodils and moving them to a spot where I can enjoy them, and where the quality of the lawn is not as important.

Some people  plant bulbs in the perennial border. If the dying foliage seems too unattractive, it can be gathered together like a pony tail and tied together. This requires some care of both the bulbs and the surrounding plants when dividing either one is called for.

Bulbs can also be planted with ground covers. The ripe foliage will eventually just disappear beneath the ground cover foliage.

Spring blooming bulbs are also lovely in deciduous woodland. They get enough sun in the spring because the trees are leafless. Many of us have a strip of trees and shrubs somewhere in our domestic landscape that be transformed into a lovely spring tableau.


Black Beauty Lily
Black Beauty Lily

Summer blooming lilies, whether Asiatics, Oriental, Trumpets or Orienpets, can also be planted now. Lilies like to have their heads in the sun, but their feet shaded. They need to be watered regularly, but do not like damp sites.

I have planted beautiful silver edged wine red Black Beauty lilies in my herb bed right in front of the house. They get sun, but the roots are shaded by all the other plants surrounding them. This is one bed that is really easy to water.

Other lilies are out in the Lawn Beds, where again their heads are in the sun, but other perennials shade the roots.

Lilies come in a variety of forms as well. Black Beauty bears many of the turks cap flowers that I like so much, with their recurved petals and prominent stamens. Mine have only gotten about five feet tall, but they can be taller. They are very hardy and sturdy. The dreaded lily beetles don’t even affect them.

The rubrum lily is another really tough hardy lily with that unforgettable rich lily fragrance. These can be a bit much when brought into the house, but when the perfume wafts through the garden I feel I have a true paradise garden.

Casa Blanca Lily
Casa Blanca Lily



I am proud to tell you that my fragrant, pristine white Casa Blanca lily won first prize in its class at the Heath Fair, although my husband insists I confess that it was the only lily entered in its class. It is considered the best white lily ever created and mine deserved all the ooohs and ahhhs it elicited from fairgoers. It deserved the blue ribbon, too.

Whether you like the simple pure flowers of the snowdrop, or the glamour of Casa Blanca, you still have time to add these bulbs to your garden for glorious bloom next year.


Between the Rows   October 24, 2009

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Carol

    Those are stunning lilies Pat and great advice for planting all bulbs… Yikes I still have so much to do… thanks for the inspiration. I’ll say your lilly deserved the blue ribbon! Carol

  2. admin

    Carol – I love lilies! I still have many chores out in the garden, but there does come a time when we have to stop. Not yet, though.

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