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!

Autumn Considerations

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

Getting Ready for Spring!

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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
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

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Gently rake dead debris away from the base of perennials

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Cut back old foliage to new emerging green growth

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

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

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Top dress with several handfuls of compost

Sure Signs of Spring

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Savor the shadows of spring.

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Welcome her first blooms (tommy crocus).

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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!

Winter Care Tips for Plants & People

WINTER CARE TIPS FOR PLANTS

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Now that the ground has truly frozen, your perennial garden will benefit from a cover of cut evergreen branches, shredded leaves or weedless hay layered to a depth of 2-3″. This winter mulch keeps the plants in a dormant state while helping to keep the soil at a consistent temperature. Alternate thawing and freezing of the plants in an unmulched soil may lead to winter root injury especially when shallow-rooted planted are heaved out of the ground in late winter.

wintercare1

Spray evergreens (new and established) with an anti-desiccant such as Wilt pruf or Transfilm. It will help the plants to maintain moisture in their leaves and needles– this is especially important during the dry, winter months with strong winds and sudden temperature changes. Broadleaf evergreens such as rhododendron, boxwood, cherry laurel, mountain laurel , skimmia and sarcococca are more susceptible to winter drying winds and overall moisture loss. This anti-desiccant acts as a protective coating-sealing in leaf moisture.

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Given the major winter damage on hydrangeas and roses last year, protect their dormant buds and flowers with a consistent spraying of wiltpruf this winter–applied every 3 weeks till mid March. First applications should be done in early January with additional applications made every 3-4 weeks during the winter months. Spray plants when temperatures are above 35 degrees.

WINTER CARE TIPS FOR PEOPLE

Why let the winter blues settle in when there are so many other colors to see at these upcoming regional garden shows!

The Hartford Flower Show
February 19-22
www.ctflowershow.com

The Philadelphia Flower Show
February 28-March 8
www.flowershow.com

The Rhode Island Spring Flower & Garden Show
February 19-22
www.theflowershow.com

The Boston Flower Show
March 11-15
www.bostonflowershow.com

The Seacoast Home & Garden Show
Durham, NH
March 28 & 29
www.seacoast.newenglandexpos.com

The More the Merrier!

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Now is the perfect time to plan and plant your spring bulb garden! Regardless of your gardening expertise, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned pro, nothing will feed your soul more than a spectacular display of multicolored, spring bulbs planted en masse. The colors and fragrances emerging in abundance next Spring are something to consider now, ahead of winter and snow, and all of those things we’d rather not be thinking about!

By incorporating a mix of early and late blooming bulbs into your garden now, you can count on a display that will begin in mid-February and continue right on into June.

allium
Allium ‘Ambassador,’ Blooming in early June

Plant in drifts and masses around perennials, define and enclose the base of shrubs in ribbons of bulbs. Incorporating bulbs in the landscape this way will ensure a grand display, especially after the lingering gray of winter.

In spring, the foliage of the emerging perennials will provide a lovely contrast to the blooms. Then, as the foliage grows, it will eventually hide the waning blooms of the bulbs.

earlydaffofils
Early daffodils in a rock garden

For the front border, concentrate on using dwarf or minor bulbs, which will magically appear in very early spring providing subtle color to the garden. If left undisturbed, these tiny bulbs will multiply and rebloom consistently each spring.

Snowdrops and winter aconite are the harbingers of the spring, emerging through snow and ice, unfurling in pale tones of ivory and yellows. Crocus, Scilla, Chionodoxa and Puschkinia spill out onto the late March landscape, appearing near doorways, lining walkways, popping up in lawns. Their ephemeral colors echo the unfolding spring giving each day a renewed radiance.

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Kaufmanniana Tulip ‘Ancilla’–for front of the border

From April to May, all forms of daffodils in varying heights from 4″ to 18″ provide weeks of color. And in May, tulips—the grand dames of the garden—lend flirt and fancy while providing many weeks of color in a multitude of forms.

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Tall French blooming tulips in late April

The dynamic and vertical lines of alliums, or flowering onions, continue the show into June–the globe-like flowers will dry and add texture and drama for early summer.

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Tulip ‘Marianne’

To complement the alliums, consider the yellow and orange tones of Eremurus or desert candles. They prefer sunny dry locations forming a large clump of sword like flowers for many weeks. Their tall and willowy plumes bloom in mid June and continue into July. Eramurus also has the benefit of being deer and rodent resistant.

Wild hyacinths or Camassia is an American native that thrives in wet areas–it forms tall, linear blue or white flowers in early summer after daffodils and tulips have passed. They are tolerant of all types of soil preferring sunny sites but will adapt to some shade as well. Camassia is a great plant to let naturalize at the edges of your property.

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Lily-flowering ‘Green Star’ Tulip

Remember, the more the merrier when planting your bulb garden. To ensure a lovely spring, plant your bulbs before the snow flies which means to start now and finish by late November.

Whether your bulb garden is a carefully planned grouping of purple, pink and white lily-flowering tulips, a sunken meadow of differing daffodils, a lawn infused with snowdrops or crocus, or a large container of mixed, multicolored bulbs on your patio–they will all burst forth to enliven and renew your spirit next spring.

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Medley of Peony-flowering tulips

Help for Your Gardens During This Heat Wave

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This really hot week has really taken a toll on everyone and everything, especially our gardens. Cooler conditions are coming along with much needed rain, but in the meantime, it is important to follow a few good tips for watering your gardens to get them through this very stressful time.

  • Prioritize your watering. It is most important to water newly planted trees and shrubs.
  • Aim for at least an inch of water per week.
  • Water early in the morning, before 7am if possible
  • Avoid overhead watering such as sprinklers. Instead, place a hose running at a low volume at the base of each plant and let the water dip down into the root system slowly.
  • Consider using soaker hoses or drip irrigation which will allow the water to percolate down into the soil.
  • Established trees and shrubs should be watered deeply every week or so. Be especially attentive to shallow rooted shrubs such as rhododendrons, azaleas and hydrangeas.
  • Avoid watering your lawn. The brown patches will green up right after the next rainstorm.
  • Your containers and window boxes will need watering twice a day during this time, as they dry out very quickly.
  • I find an application of liquid seaweed and fish emulsion, diluted per bottle instructions, indispensable during drought conditions. Apply every 5-7 days.