Bulbs | Clay County Master Gardeners

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By Eleanor Moyer, Clay County Master Gardener

I am sitting at my window looking at my rain gauge mounting its way above two inches. Oh, this gloomy day brightens my heart! Just think of how that cement-like soil will now yield to gentle pressure. It is not too late to do some planting especially bonny spring-flowering bulbs that greet the new season with such lavish splendor.

It probably is too late to order bulbs from Europe, but there are plenty available in garden stores locally. Choose the biggest and firmest ones you can find. You can’t go wrong planting daffodils. These harbingers of spring are not bothered by voles and squirrels, don’t require much maintenance and multiply regularly for greater enjoyment year after year. With careful research into different varieties, you can enjoy daffodils from February through April in colors ranging from white, yellow, salmon, pink, and red orange. They need full sun, good drainage, and moisture after planting. The main negative to my mind is the slow decay of their leaves after flowering which should not be cut back until completely dead or actually” never” according to the Southern Living’s Grumpy Gardener. There are always solutions for an intrepid gardener. If you have woods, daffodils do well at the edge especially since the trees to not leaf fully until the bulbs are dormant. Another remedy is to interplant the bulbs with summer perennials like daylilies. Plant them 2 ½ – 3 times as deep as the diameter of the bult, generally. Place the flat side down and the pointy side up. You can add a slow-release fertilizer at planting, but the bulb actually has all its nutrients stored within. Fertilize when the foliage emerges in spring. Bone meal used to be recommended but is no longer shown to be effective.

I have three favorite bulbs: crocus, tulips, and hyacinth. However, I am not alone in my selection-they are also the choice cuisine of pesky critters. Crocus bulbs are small enough to be placed in a handmade wire cage using 1 inch cage wire. Dig a hole large enough for the box, evenly place the bulbs, and then bury the whole kit and caboodle! As for tulips and hyacinths, secure chicken wire on the surface covered with mulch. As long as you are satisfied with having them last one or two seasons, go for it! I love to place them in containers. I found beautiful white pansies locally which will look lovely during the Christmas season and will be a foil for the stunning blue of hyacinth flowers come spring.

There are many other bulbs perfect for our climate from cottagey snow bells to more exotic selections like allium and fritillaria. I am envious if you have these in your garden. Allium especially, makes such a statement with its lollipop blooms atop straight stems. They are not particularly difficult to grow, just make sure you have amended the soil well.

I hope this inspires you to plant a dozen or so bulbs. When spring comes, you will be so happy you did!