During this second week of October, spring is just around the corner from the Halloween decorations at your nearest nursery or home store. This is where you will still find bins and bags of spring blooming bulbs to plant now. If you’ve been less than impressed with bulbous bloomers in the past, get creative, try something new and dig into a more colorful spring by getting down and dirty this autumn. For more details on these and other bulb planting ideas go to www.bulb.com
Cook up some bulb
You can use this recipe in a large pot or small patch of earth. The ingredients you’ll need are at least three different types of bulbs of three different sizes. Use at least six bulbs of each type. An example is to choose six small crocus bulbs, six medium daffodils and six large tulips. Add potting soil to fill a 12-inch deep container at least one-third full. Place the largest bulbs (in this case the tulips) in a circle on top of the soil. Cover with another few inches of soil. Add another layer of bulbs using the medium-sized daffodils. Layer more soil on top of the daffodils until they are covered. Finally, add the small crocus bulbs and top with at least three inches more of soil. Let the soil and bulb layers cook up all winter out in the cold weather. When spring arrives you’ll enjoy the crocus first, followed by daffodils and finally the late-blooming layer of tulips – all in the same pot. You can have spring color from February until May in a very small space.
Go modern – get acquainted with alliums
Want to know which spring-blooming bulb has the biggest fans among the top designers? It is the globe-like form and stiff, strong stems of the allium or flowering onion. A new variety of allium called “Pinball Wizard” holds purple blooms atop relatively short stems, the giant white allium can grow to 4 feet tall and you can also plant deep purple, pale white, pink and wild-looking alliums that look like fireworks. But wait, there’s more! All this incredible form and globular intensity plus alliums are deer- and rodent-resistant. Plus, when the flowers are finished they dry in place to decorate the garden with starry globes of silver and brown.
Alliums have short strappy leaves that are easy to hide among other perennials so the exotic flowers seem to appear from nowhere. They bloom late in the season any time from May until August and like all bulbs need well-drained soil. The larger the bulb the deeper it needs to be planted so the giant alliums should go down 8 inches deep while the smaller varieties need only be buried 4 inches under.
Plant your lawn with
crocus – and a message
Ever see a blooming heart of flowers appear in the lawn? It happened to one couple as they waited through winter for the birth of their first baby: a gift from grandparents who dug into the grass and planted 50 crocus bulbs in a heart shape when they heard a new baby was expected. You can spell out names, announce the spring season or just turn your winter-weary lawn into a blooming meadow with crocus bulbs this month.
Both the species crocus and the large flowering crocus are deer- and rodent-resistant and it doesn’t take much digging to bury these small bulbs. Cover them with 3 or 4 inches of topsoil if you add crocus to your flower garden, or just make slits 4 inches deep into your turf and slip in the crocus bulbs. To make a crocus “heart” that blooms in the lawn, first outline the shape with a hose or string, then follow along the form with a shovel, making slits. Next, drop the crocus bulbs into the openings in the grass.
A blooming crocus lawn will only work if you are willing to delay the mowing of the grass until after the big blooming show. In our climate this means no mowing until mid-March. Then if you want the crocus to return year after year you’ll have to let the foliage ripen and turn yellow before you mow or destroy the leaves.
Use your imagination when planting spring blooming bulbs this fall and you could be inspired to plant old boots with yellow daffodils, add snow drops to dangling from hanging baskets or enjoy a bushel basket of tulips blooming on your front porch just in time to celebrate Easter.
When you celebrate the change of seasons, you celebrate life. Get growing.
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Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and other books. For book requests or answers to questions, write to: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. For more gardening information, she can be reached at her website, www.binettigarden.com. Copyright owned by Marianne Binetti.