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Why have I written numerous articles, made some primers on the how-to of fall planted, spring-blooming bulbs in the garden, and why not concentrate on something else, like leaf raking or making compost?
There are more than a few reasons, some personal- like the fact that these were my own earliest interest in plants when I was a child. They were also the first things I planted as a young newlywed wanting to feather my very own nest (a rented house, at the time).
But the main reason, and the one which I think will draw you in, as well, is that these are the beautiful and joyous end point of the winter dormancy. They are the easiest of efforts at gaining a truly enviable scene in your front yard, a delight of color and form variation in the spring time when you are most free to simply enjoy your flowers, just by looking out the windows or going for a short stroll around your garden.
The Double Nose Of Desire
Daffodils often come in a form called “double nosed” which are two growing points, and the picture can be borrowed for what happens when we most think of adding bulbs to our gardens:
- During the flurry of fall planting season, when all the stores stock the bulbs and catalogs assail us with big bright photos of an array of tulips and daffodils. Then we might pick up some, do a little hurried research on how best to plant them and put a few into the ground.
- The other time our desires are triggered are in the season of bloom, only to be told that we can’t have any of this temptingly delicious color and sweet scent until next year…after we have planted the bulbs in autumn.
The drawback is a time lapse in which we forget what we like, what we want, and where we wanted to put it.
The timing is everything, and taking notes on what you like, creating plans, and making lists of the varieties you want should happen in spring during the full glory of the spring flowering season. The opposite of our usual time spent during the dormant winter evenings, when pen and paper seem better tools than spade and fork.
Journal best combinations, colors, varieties, coinciding bloom times during March-May.
Bulb catalogs often available in August- make your orders for fall in that month.
Planting time for bulbs in the garden starts in late September and goes through October.
Theoretically you can plant until the ground freezes hard, but believe me (from a die hard gardener who used to do that) when I tell you that it is not pleasant during cold, chill rains and stormy blasts, with your freezing hands hurriedly placing bulbs into hastily dug holes.
Annotations In Bulbography
Who are you?
What most articles on this topic don’t pick apart are the types of flower bulb planting for the kind of gardener you are.
Yes, you have a “type”, although it is never set in stone, and you might well change many times over your gardening career.
Here are a few I noticed, and the perfect planting match for your type.
- The Diva. If you want drama, color, and a big splash, and cost means nothing to you, remember that Holland is in business for you. Big gorgeous tulips represent you, because only Holland bulb growers can nurture them to produce that guaranteed large bloom and uniform size that comes from the largest diameter bulbs that are healthy enough to burst into bloom as soon as their season hits. They might only last one season, or peter out over the next two, and it is a bit expensive to buy and plant this many bulbs every year or two. But the show is definitely worth it.
- The Frugal Housewife. You could be male and qualify just as easily if you look for bulbs that will give a good show year after year and multiply so there are always more to fill up all the possible place to plant them and then give some away. Luckily for you there are so many beautiful daffodils of so many types that the only requirement is that you get your hands on some (buy them or beg them) and have a love for cheerful yellow and whites, with touches of orange. If you love to match them with grape hyacinths (Muscari spp.) these will merrily multiply and bloom at the same general time. You will be happy.
- Dreaming Maid. That is actually the name of a lovely tulip variety, but if it describes you, you are an artistic soul who loves the look of combining particular tones of tulips in elegant lily forms, swathes of drifting naturalized small bulbs and the sweet fragrance that hangs on the air. You are pleased to cut blooms for your home and your curtains are probably diaphanous lace. For you the minor bulbs in multitude, naturalized in special flowering beds, with plenty of lily-flowered tulips which are not only graceful but likely to come up each year for a long time. Hyacinths and a long stretch of bloom which will include Alliums and a smattering of unusual types of bulbs that make for easy cocktail conversation.
- The Tentative Pathfinder. Likely a beginning gardener, there is nothing wrong with the fact that you line up rows of bulbs to outline your sidewalk leading to the house. Then you branch out to groups of all the same color in front of the foundation shrubs. We all have started there, I think, and some are very happy with that look. It is neat, and perfect for crocus and some “perennial” types of tulips. I would say “Ivory Floradale” and a group of Emperor tulips will make you very satisfied every time you return home in the evening.
- The Completely Mad Hatter. You can never get enough, and your plantings don’t make sense -except to you, so you call them “cottage style” plantings. But your hats are filled with all the plans and ideas of experiments with bulbs, so that you love to see what works in your garden, which plantings look best together and there are never enough bulbs in the yard…. not that you remember all the places you planted them (in spring…oops, another bites the dust as that spade slices them in two). You probably blog.
Well – that is my little treatise on bulb planting personalities. See my bulb videos, I have three now, and will try to add one more before I close the book on this topic for a little while.