Planting Spring Bulbs

 

Early bulbs are much smaller and will do well planted about 3-4” deep. Top dressing with an autumn mulch keeps the ground warmer allowing for root development before the deep cold of winter sets in. This insulating mulch also protects the bulbs from quick freezes and thaws that often occur in late winter.

A generous mix of bulbs are being incorporated into any existing garden.

As the days become longer and the daytime temperatures gradually rise, the bulbs will naturally begin to emerge and start the wonderful process of sequential blooming. Since the early spring bulbs are low growing and devoid of a lot of foliage, the first flush of flowers magically appears making the early spring garden abundant in a sea of blooms–creating a breathtaking picture that can last for several days of even weeks. When one group of bulbs start to fade, another grouping takes center stage quickly filling in any vacancies in the garden.

 

After flowering, it is important to give them a feeding of organic fertilizer and allow the foliage to die back gradually. Later bloomers like tulips and alliums along with emerging perennials will eventually camouflage the waning bulbs. By creating a design that promotes a progression of bulbs, the garden will never be without something in bloom.

In late April and early May, tulips the grand-dames of the garden lend flirt and fancy in an abundant array of colors and shapes. Species tulips are tiny in size often blooming along with daffodils which makes them less likely to be eaten by deer. To deter rodents from eating the bulbs, use a rodent repellant or add cayenne pepper or garlic flakes to the planting hole.

Spring bulbs in a sculpture garden.

Another trick is to spray bulbs (especially tulips) with a diluted solution of old fashioned liquid lysol and let the bulbs dry completely in the sun prior to planting, The offending critters are hindered by the smell and taste of this strong smelling cleaner. Another tip from a bulb importer is to plant them in the same hole as the allium. The strong onion odor of the allium helps to keep critters away as well.

The dynamic and vertical lines of flowering onions or Alliums continue the show into June- globe-like flower of the allium may be allowed to dry in the garden, which adds texture and interest to your perennial borders. There is a multitude of allium varieties in the market–from very low growing to impressive 4‘ varieties. Alliums add an elegance and dramatic verticality to the late May and early June garden Fragrant and dramatic lilies, “the wings of the garden” take flight in late June and July. You can find a multitude of different hybrids in dazzling colors and shapes in all of these species of bulbs.

An enchanting collection of peony-flowering tulips and late daffodils in a seaside garden.

To encourage your bulb garden to flourish, select a site that has well-drained soil. If the soil needs work, start by enriching the proposed area with good top soil or compost to a depth of about 6”. Bulbs do not like to be planted in area that is usually wet–so good drainage is essential when preparing your site for a bulb garden. Plant bulbs with the pointed side up adding a tablespoon or so of an organic fertilizer that contains rock phosphate, which will ensure proper root development.

It is especially important to plant the bulb to the proper depth which is about 3-4 times the bulb’s length. For example, a tulip which is about 2” long needs to be planted about 6-8” deep. The earlier bulbs are much smaller and will do well planted about 3-4” deep. Top dressing with an autumn mulch keeps the ground warmer allowing for root development before the deep cold of winter sets in. This insulating mulch also protects the bulbs from lifting when quick freezes and thaws occur in late winter. As the days become longer and the daytime temperatures get warmer, the bulbs will naturally begin to emerge and start the wonderful process of sequential blooming. When one group of bulbs start to fade, another grouping starts to take center stage and fills in any vacancies in the garden. Since the early spring bulbs are low growing and devoid of a lot of foliage, the flowers in full bloom appear as luscious masses of color–creating a breathtaking picture that can last for several days of even weeks.

After flowering, it is important to give your bulbs a feeding of organic fertilizer because this is the time they are storing food for next year’s blooms.

Always allow the foliage to gradually die back naturally. By late June most of the foliage has completely withered and can then be safely cut down. Later bloomers like tulips and alliums along with emerging perennials will eventually camouflage the waning bulbs.

By creating a design that promotes a progression of bulbs, the garden will never be without something in bloom. At present, bulb supplies are still plentiful and you can safely plant your bulb garden right up to Thanksgiving. A warm sunny afternoon in late October or early November is the perfect time to plant your spring garden–so don’t hesitate to get out there soon!

 

You’re never too young to learn how to plant bulbs for the family garden!

The Serendipity of Spring Bulbs

 

I never feel a perennial garden is complete without the addition of spring bulbs. The wonderful serendipitous quality of bulbs make the early spring garden truly come alive — a vivid reminder that we can bid adieu to the long cold and grey of winter.

Whether you are just a beginner or a more seasoned gardener nothing will feed your soul more than a fabulous display of spring bulbs. Planted en masse, the luscious colors, subtle fragrances and long blooming flowers creates a wonderful prelude for the unfolding spring season. A carefully selected collection of spring bulbs will provide a symphony of successive blooms that will enliven your garden with many months of amazing color and fragrance.

By incorporating a mix of early, middle and late blooming bulbs, you are ensured of a display that will span several months. The early bloomers of March and April are snowdrops, crocus, Iris reticulata, Scilla, Chionodoxa followed by daffodils and hyacinths. With careful planning now, the entire month of April can be a spectacular display of flowering bulbs in a multitude of forms and a rainbow of colors.

Autumn Considerations

Divide and Conquer

September and early October are the best times to divide most perennials — these are clumps of overgrown Japanese iris that have declined in their flowering. Watch what happens…

 

Start by digging out the bulky clump.

 

A tarp is helpful to use as you are working.

 

Divide each clump into halves and then divide those halves into fourths – keep dividing until you have smaller divisions that are about 3-4″ wide.

 

This original overgrown clump created 16 new iris plants that will produce a much healthier plant and beautiful flowers next June.

 

When planting any new perennial, dig a hole about twice the size of the plant — add organic fertilizers to the bottom of the planting hole.

 

Replant each division into a larger hole that has been amended with fertilizer and topped off with generous amounts of good garden compost.

 

Top dress the entire area around the planting hole with compost and then water well.

 

Water each new division well–Japanese iris demand  rich, moist acid soil — remember to divide you perennials every 3-4 years to get them healthy and thriving and they will reward you with wonderful flowers throughout the growing season.

The Autumn Garden

The Autumn garden offers a wonderful pathway into a richer landscape with vivid colors that remain for several weeks — it is a season to celebrate and enjoy the transformative qualities of New England gardens.

Hydrangeas — The Flower of Tranformations

Homage to the Hydrangea…a delightful cupcake!

In most parts of New England, this has been a glorious year for hydrangea shrubs and it’s about time! The past two years has been inhospitable to these shrubs with excessively cold temperatures for long periods causing the tender buds to be killed. In the very early spring of 2016, it looked promising but unfortunately the emerging buds were hit by extreme and unexpected temperature drops which killed all the potential flowers. Many of us wondered if we would ever see those beautiful blue flowers again as they are the quintessential mainstays of our summer gardens.

Now as I drive around to visit gardens, I am amazed by the dazzling and voluptuous hydrangeas shrubs that are gracing our gardens this summer. It is gratifying and comforting that our patience over the past two years has paid off with the abundance of vivid blue, purple and pink flowers that are now so plentiful.

This beloved plant originated on the coastal and smaller islands of Japan. In Japan it is called the “flower of seven transformations” or Nanhenge because of the plant’s ability to change color based on the chemical nature of the soil. An acid soil produces a bluer flower while a soil that is more alkaline turns the flower pinker. Growers have produced a vast amount of differing hydrangeas to choose from in terms of not only color, but also sizes from massive to quite diminutive. The newer varieties also bloom continuously from July into early Autumn.

In my own garden, I have seen hydrangea flowers emerge as soft green transforming into pale blue. As the summer progressives, the pale blue turns to cobalt and vivid mauves and purples. Cooler temperatures in autumn bring on a rich burgundy, while a quick frost may turn the flowers to a tawny silver. This multitude of colors produces lovely flowers that can be cut and dried as beautiful arrangements for your home in the winter.

Spring’s Instant Unexpected Color

Early Spring Perennials always provides some instant unexpected color for your
garden!

Usually in early April, somewhere between the waning blooms of daffodils and before
the massive display of May flowers, early bloomers such as candytuft, phlox subulata,
forget-me-nots and leopardsbane fill a nice spot in the garden. Subtle, petite and
unobtrusive, they can still make a commanding presence in soft spring-like tones
covering the otherwise barren ground with unexpected color. Even though they tend to
be fleeting, these delicate beauties deserve a special place in your perennial garden.
They are an exceptional addition to spring bulbs as the color complement and reinforce
each other.

Of special significance are the spring ephemerals such as Virginia bluebells, trillium,
mayapple, trout lily and bloodroot. They create little niches in the garden once the soil
start to warm, emerging from dormancy and flooding the garden with soft pastel colors.
Growing quickly, they burst almost overnight into flower, providing pollen and nectar for
an abundance of early insects such as bee, flies, and early bumblebees. After flowering
these plants quickly fade and form seed before gradually go dormant. Once dormant, it
is important to mark where they are in the garden and protect their roots from damage
during the busy gardening months of the summer.

With little encouragement, these early spring stalwarts will return and multiply each year
during a time when little else is blooming. They are the perfect companion to native
ferns and hostas.

Early Spring Bloomers No Garden Should Be Without

Since the winter has been so mild we are now seeing lots of early blooming shrubs along with all the tiny early spring bulbs emerging through sodden soil and snow. As the days lengthen, the sun warms the soil allowing buds to swell and unfurl opening several weeks earlier this year. These shrubs along with spring bulbs are tenacious and resilient even when night temperatures suddenly drop and the days can be grey and windy. These shrubs and bulbs can be unobtrusive in a lovely range of pastel colors with forms that grace our early spring landscape in their subtleness and unexpected blooms.

As an added bonus, these early bloomers will continue to flower for several weeks as the cooler temperatures will evolve into warmer days. We can expect several more weeks of blooms with these unique plants—all the more reason to plan adding some of these delightful plants for your late winter/early spring garden next year.

House Plants Bring the Garden Inside

When it is cold and grey outside, house plants can truly enliven your home bringing the essence of the garden inside.

citrus

 

For the most part, we are home-dwellers in the Winter. For that reason, it is important to use house plants to infuse our interiors with vitality and fresh energy. House plants inject a lightness and vibrancy into the home improving air quality by increasing oxygen levels, removing toxins from the air and above all enhancing the quality of life by adding a healthy green ambiance to all the rooms in your home.

When selecting house plants, consider matching the right plants to the right growing conditions. A south or west facing window works well for sun lovers. Consider jasmine, amaryllis, aloe and jade plants. For low light areas, begonias, ferns, ivy and the indestructible aspidistra all work well.

Proper watering is essential — most house plants need to dry out well prior to watering. Keeping them on a consistent watering schedule is important. Aim to water once a week. Overwatering is the death to most plants as it leads to yellowing leaves, bug infestations, root rot and moldy soil. Moisture loving plants such as ferns, ivy and Spathiphylum (peace lily) and primrose will require more water and should not be allowed to dry out. Placing them in a tray of pebbles filled with water will help keep them consistently moist. Increase the humidity around your plants by misting the foliage every few days but remember misting does not replace regular watering.

As the sun becomes stronger in February, start fertilizing your plants about once a month with an organic liquid fertilizer. Monty’s liquid plant food is a wonderful fertilizer that is well balanced and slow releasing.

The range of house plants available is very abundant and exciting. Once you understand the light conditions of your house, you can select plants that will adapt and fill a particular space or window sill bringing delight and wonder for many years.

A Plethoria of Spring Blooms