Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Falling for bulbs

English: bulbs
Bulbs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Fall is the best time to buy your bulbs, corms and tubers.  They not onlly provide you with a instant show at the end of winter but are easy to care for, can bloom over and over for years and reproduce themselves.  If you have money only to get three or four bulbs, don't worry, you will soon have more then you need in a few years with proper care.

When buying bulbs choose firm bulbs with no black spots, damage or mold, also make sure they have no sign of growth.  Do not leave them in sitting in a hot space in their bag, keep them as cool as possible.  Plant them as soon as you can after buying. 

To plant choose a sunny to partial shaded well drain area with average soil.  Dig a wide hole, 6 to 8 inches deep, if needed add sand to improve drainage, mix in a handful or so of bone meal.  Spacing bulbs 3 to 5 inches apart place bulbs in soil with pointed end upward.  Cover with soil and pat down somewhat firmly and water.  Mulch can be added to prevent soil from drying out to quickly.  Re-water as needed.

Lilies Photo by gaj
Fall bulbs come in four categories -
Early spring flowering are the first blooms to appear after winter.  They include snowdrops, crocuses, scillas, and aconite.  They are usually low growing blooms of 4 to 8 inches high and consist of flowers that are white, blues, or yellows. 

Spring flowering are the second to appear and can include Dutch crocuses, narcissus, hyacinths and muscaris.  They usually have a taller stand of 8 to 12 inches and a wider array of colors. 

Summer flowering are third to appear and vary in height, they include gladiolus, lilies, sparaxis, dahlias and begonias.  They can include every spectrum in the color wheel and can last to early fall.

Autumn flowering are the last to appear and consist of ground cover plants to plants that measure 5 feet high.  Some included in this category are amaryllis, cyclamens, sternbergias and fall hyacinths.

Sternbergias Photo by gaj
Most gardeners plant their bulbs in a large grouping either of solid color or mixed colors feeling this is the best way to get the most impressive display.  To add a varity in your garden try growing the low-growing bulbs between paving stones or in a rock garden type setting; they can be mixed creeping thyme, low growing grasses or other low-growing plants.  Bulbs can be planted around the base of a tree or in terra-cotta pot and placed where a spot of color is needed. 

After your bulbs are done flowering you should deadhead (remove the flower heads), cut about one or two inches off the top and leave the stem and leaves so that the plant puts it energy into forming a stronger bulb and producing bulb side shoots.  Please note that certain bulb plant should only be deadheaded if you wish no more plants, they are:
Winter aconites and
Tulips Photo by gaj
If you do not wish to re-plant your bulbs every year they can be left in the ground over winter but you will need to lay a layer of mulch after the first ground freeze.  Mulch can be anything from straw, peat moss, pine needles or a heavy layer of leaves.

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