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.

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.

Make It Tulips!

French Tulips

French Tulips

Tulips are truly a breath of fresh air — like taking in the fragrance of sheets off the clothesline. For early spring color and sheer garden abundance, nothing beats a bed of willowy tulips in full bloom. A undulating sea of tulips will certainly lift your spirits after any lingering grey of winter.

Generally, tulip varieties are divided into 15 different groups, which categorizes them by bloom time and overall shape and form. Very early blooming and low growing, the greigii and kaufmanniana varieties are a great addition to your garden. Species or “wild” tulips are smaller and more delicate in form—often the colors are quite vivid in hues of red or yellows. They tend to be easier to establish in the garden, multiplying and reblooming each spring. Some other reliable establishing varieties are: sylvestris, clusiana, humilis, saxatilis and dasystemon. These are perfect for planting near doorways or rock gardens as they are the first to bloom every year.

There are other varieties, too:

  • Triumph tulips bloom in late April and come in a multitude of colors. They are also good for forcing in pots.
  • The Darwin category contains some of the largest and sturdy growing varieties. They are truly impressive when grown en masse.
  • Peony-flowering tulips are highly scented looking like luscious peonies or bowls of ice cream in the garden. Their strong, thick stems lend support to the massive flowers.
  • Parrot tulips contain some of the most dramatic colors with flamboyant and frilled shapes— a magical addition to any garden.
  • Viridiflora or green tulips have subdued green markings, which contrast with the muted tones of pinks and purples of the petals making the whole flower appear feathered and elegant.
  • Lily Flowering have tall, elongated and flared stems that create a beautiful vertical line. They bloom later in the season, which makes them the perfect addition to the back of the border fully extending the long season of blooming tulips.

(Click on an  image below to see a slideshow.)

Mass planting tulips in drifts creates an alluring and voluptuous feeling to the spring garden. Bold plantings are sure to inspire and lift spirits, and provide an abundance of color before spring perennials even start to bloom.

Tulips can be incorporated into shrub and evergreen borders to fill in gaps and provide wonderful color in the early spring. The later blooming shrubs will camouflage the waning foliage of the bulbs.

By staging different varieties of tulips in graduated layers the garden will unfurl in a succession of blooms providing wonderful color and fragrance for many weeks. Enjoy!

Readying Roses for Spring

April is a great time to prune roses. Start by removing the dead and diseased canes. Since this was a severe winter, there may be a lot of winter damage on roses. All the more reason to prune out the dead stems to stimulate strong growth.

Cut rose bushes down about 50% — this will invigorate and instill new growth this season.

Cut down to where the green part of the stem is showing. Cuts should be made just above the bud eye or where branching will occur. On dormant rose canes, this bud eye is located on the outward facing bud. If you are unsure of where to prune, wait till the rose starts to grow and this bud swells to indicate the area to be pruned.

Cut off the dead stems on roses to reveal green growth beneath.

To regenerate roses in spring, make a slanted cut above the outward facing bud–new growth will emerge as soon as the weather warms up.

Good fertilization is key to healthy blooming roses — start by raking away some of the soil at the base of each rose. Apply a slow release fertilizer such as Rose Tone (follow the amount suggested on the bag) along with a handful of green sand gently working into the base of each rose. Green sand provides trace minerals that are beneficial to the health of the rose. Top dress with 3-4 generous handfuls of garden compost.

Avoid mulching for a few weeks to allow the rose to take up the beneficial amendments.

Amend around the base with Rose Tone and greensand. Top dress with about 2” of good compost.

Getting Ready for Spring!


When the first warm days of this long awaited spring arrive, it will be pure joy to go outside and work in our gardens! With the continuous snow melt and warmer temperatures it will be important to check the status of your plants — gradually uncover the winter debris to reveal emerging growth. The abundant mounds of snow that covered our gardens all winter may prove to be the best insulation for plants during those bitter cold days in February.

Things to Remember

  • Avoid working in the garden too early as stepping on the soil may compact it, causing structural damage to the soil particles.
  • It is important to let the ground thaw and dry out for a week or so before venturing out — the sun along with good spring air circulation will provide the perfect medium to get your plants stimulated and revived after this winter.

Perennial Garden Care
When the final snows melt and the ground does not have standing water, you can start to gently rake away the winter debris — avoid using heavy metal rakes that may damage emerging plants. A small hand rake works best in early spring, along with hand removal of leaves and debris. Once the crowns of your perennials about 2″ high, you can cut away the dead stems from last season.

When the plants are all up a few inches and the garden starts to look more defined, you can apply an organic slow release fertilizer that should be topped off with a generous handful of good compost around the base of each perennial.

Plants thrive and respond quickly to the addition of this combination. Spring rains will gradually wash these beneficial amendments into the roots of the plants right where they are needed.

Compost is the perfect addition to your existing soil. Not only does it provide food for plants but it also enlivens your soil with macro and micro-nutrients that may be missing. Compost helps to neutralize both acid and alkaline soils. By elevating the pH of your soil to an optimum range, plants are able to take up beneficial nutrients. Boosting the nutrient content in the soil increases fertility. Rich, fertile soil means strong healthy plants with greater water retention ability, which means less watering this summer. Compost reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers as it naturally feeds the plants. Maintaining and enriching your soil with compost is the best way to provide for a healthy, disease free garden.

Spring Maintenance Steps


Gently rake dead debris away from the base of perennials


Cut back old foliage to new emerging green growth


Scatter an organic slow-release fertilizer around the crown of each plant


Top dress with several handfuls of compost

Sure Signs of Spring

Savor the shadows of spring.

Welcome her first blooms (tommy crocus).

See sunshine in everything (yellow amur adonis).

These sure signs of spring mean it’s time to start thinking about your gardens. Spring maintenance plans, enhanced gardening beds, new flowers and shrubs, adding pathways and patios. It’s time to imagine the possibilities!

Planting an Interior Spring Garden to Feed My Soul


It might take a little more time before our abundant snows melt and we see spring bulbs, so I decided to plant an interior spring garden as a reminder that spring can bloom inside no matter what the weather is outside.


Since all my nice large containers are buried in snow right now, I needed to evict my cat Milo from his winter sleeping place. Yes, he curls up in one of my antique Victorian urns for winter naps…naturally in a sunny spot.

I dream about the sun myself — those warm, sun-filled days to come, and the flowers that will be revealed…


(Witch hazel already in bloom. This shrub blooms from early March through April. It really should be in everyone’s garden.)


(Hellebore flower bud just unfurling in my shade garden.)


That revelation will begin soon. Our treasured flowers and shrubs will emerge from the snow—the “poor man’s fertilizer” that insulates and carries beneficial minerals into our gardens—hopefully no worse for the wear of this long winter.


But for now, Milo and I both must be content with an indoor spring, the Narcissus blooming by the window, and a new season just a week away.