Tips, Quips and Stories from Years of Gardening Experience
Nothing quite says spring like bulbs blooming in your garden. If you have not driven by the house on Ridgeway Road in Oakwood, Ohio when the Narcissus are blooming, you simply must do this. It is a sea of yellow within a woodland garden that is spectacular. Or dive along Mad River Road just north of West Rahn Road in Centerville, Ohio during the spring to see a lovely display of tulips in bloom. Although both of these displays offer immense enjoyment to passers-by, they require a different amount of effort to keep looking good year after year.
Although many folks interchange the words Narcissus, Daffodils and Jonquils, it is not exactly botanically correct.
Narcissus is the botanic name for this Genus of plants. Daffodil is the common name and is many times used to refer to the plant Narcissus psuedonarcissus. Jonquil is a specific type of Narcissus characterized by dark green tube-shaped leaves. The very best use of this plant is to naturalize woodland areas and since the entire plant is poisonous, animals rarely disturb it. Planting and caring for your Narcisssus is easy. I would recommend using a bulb fertilizer like bone meal when you plant. This fertilizer needs to sit below the bulb and be worked into the soil. The fertilizer directly against the bulb can cause damage. How deep should you plant the bulbs? It is dependent on the size of the bulb. A general rule of thumb is to dig a hole two to three times the bulb’s size. I typically dig my holes for my Narcissus with a shovel which has been rocked back and forth. This creates a bit of space that I can plant about 3 bulbs per hole. Why do I do that? Although your Narcissus will multiply after a few years, they look very puny initially planted as a single bulb. This is especially true when you are trying to naturalize an area. If you are using the Narcissus in a more formal planting, space them about six inches apart. This handy chart will help you determine the number of plants you need. http://www.midwestgroundcovers.com/index.cfm An additional fertilizer such as a 5-10-10 when the leaves break the surface is recommended. Be sure to cut the flower once it has bloomed but wait until the plants leaves yellow before cutting those back.
You cannot beat the color variations in tulips. Bright oranges, reds, pinks, purples, whites and yellows plus multicolor options are available in the market. Flowers also come in single and double variations. Most designers treat tulips as annuals. Since these bulbs are not poisonous, they are frequently dug up and eaten by garden critters.
At my own house, when planting tulips, I normally cluster them in a bed to create a larger display. I work bone meal into the soil below the bulb similar to the Narcissus and cover those with a portion of the soil. Chicken wire is laid over the bulb area and then secured in place with sod pins. The remainder of the soil is put over the top of the chicken wire and is lightly mulched. This prevents animals from digging your bulbs up. In the spring the plants will simply grow between the openings in the chicken wire. If you would like to leave the bulbs in the ground for the following year, fertilize in the fall and then again in the spring. Like the Narcissus, cut the flower once it has finished blooming but allow the foliage to die back. Many times your second year display will not be as floriferous. If you want a consistent showy display, consider digging up your tulips once they have bloomed and replant new in the fall.
Is there a difference in the bulbs that are purchased at the big box stores, online or at the nursery? The answer is, of course there is a difference. For instance, Tulip bulbs from Holland are harvested in mid summer and graded according to their size. These bulbs are measured in centimeters of circumference. Most of the mixed bulb packages that you see at the big box stores are undersized. Online bulb purchases can be overwhelming as they have a variety of different sizes they sell. If you are a savvy shopper, for large mass plantings, purchase bulbs that are at least ten centimeters in size. For high visibility areas, choose bulbs that are between twelve and fourteen centimeters in size. The few extra cents you spend will be well worth it. If you want to actually see the quality of what you are buying, or need help making some decisions, stop in our garden center. Or give me a call in July and we can help you figure out how many bulbs you need planted and what varieties will best fit your situation. Although planting will not begin until October, your bulbs will be ordered and safely shipped by professionals.
My 2015 bulb planting experience was not without incident. My daughter got married the spring of 2016. I wanted my house to look exceptionally nice for guests who may want to stop by or for the photographer who took pictures prior to the actual wedding. I did all of my research. I looked at dated photographs from previous years and I spoke to the growers about bloom times. It was determined that I should try late blooming tulips for the best chance of having blooms during the late April wedding event. I purchased a mere thousand bulbs and hired the Siebenthaler crew to help me plant. We used an auger attachment and quickly found it useless in areas that had roots. We ended up using the trusty shovel method. Bulbs were neatly planted in anticipation of the big day. Mother nature had other thoughts. It was very warm the winter of 2016 and the occasional cold day could not slow down the emergence of the bulbs. My yard was a burst of color from late March through mid April with only about ten of the thousand bulbs still in bloom for the big day.
Here’s hoping you enjoy the bulbs this coming spring and are inspired to plant a few of your own in the fall. Just don’t ask me to gauge when they will bloom.
The last step is to set up an appointment to have one of Siebenthalers multi-talented pool of designers visit with you at your home to help you pull together all the elements you have chosen and create the Outdoor living space of your dreams!
Until next time, Janice