Bulbs, bulbs, everywhere – spring bulbs are still very much in evidence in any garden centre, nursery, or even random supermarkets. The relatively warm November gives us another week or so to get more bulbs into the ground. And while it is still a few months before we can actually enjoy them, it is most certainly a great time to dream about spring!
Many nurseries and mail orders have special sales on, and experience teaches us that by the time the bulbs should go in the ground, most garden centres are all but cleared out. So – this is the time!
There is a plethora of these beautiful harbingers of spring out there, and it’s rather hard to choose.
Here are a few tips to make your spring garden a success:
Deer- and Rodent Resistant Bulbs:
Many of us here in the city and suburbs are plagued less by deer, but most certainly by squirrels and chipmunks who will happily munch up our spring bulbs. There are a few ways to discourage the critters.
First of all, plant bulbs they don’t like. Tulip and crocus are reputedly delicious and will likely end up as someone’s dinner. Most other bulbs, such as scilla, allium, daffodils, frittilaria, and snow drops, are much harder to stomach.
If you don’t want to do without tulips, you might want to try to spot plant them surrounded by other bulbs.
Lastly, make sure not to leave any “invitations” out for potential dinner guests: clean up any and all brown skins after planting. If you have a bird feeder in the vicinity, make sure it is “spill proof”.
Stage your spring blooms:
Packages and labels will give you an idea how tall your flowers of choice will grow. A rule of thumb is, the bigger the bulb, the bigger the bloom. Make sure to give the little snow drops and croci a chance to shine by placing them in the foreground, while planting taller flowers in the back.
Cluster your bulbs to get more bang for your buck. Avoid “lone soldiers”. Most labels give certain recommendations to plant bulbs 4-6 inches apart, and while I won’t dare telling you to disregard these instructions, I personally take them with a few grains of salt.
Not all spring bulbs bloom at the same time. There are early season, mid-season and late season bloomers. It can be charming to group them in a way to have different spots “pop up” at different times, or even to plant early and late bloomers in the same cluster for a full-season show of color.
Last, but certainly not least –
Choose healthy bulbs and the right growing conditions:
A healthy bulb is firm and heavy for its size. There shouldn’t be any dark patches or light splotches. Bulbs that seem very light are likely dried out and may not be viable. Soft, spongy spots are signs of rot; these bulbs should be discarded.
Bulbs hate “wet feet”. Too much soil moisture will make them rot. They thrive in sun (remember, we’re talking early spring, and many spots that will be shady later in the season will be sunny now).
To prepare the planting site, loosen the soil to the appropriate depth (5”-8”, in very heavy clay soils a little less). You might even want to add some compost to boost your soil’s levels of nutrients and organic matter.
If you have any gardening questions, on bulbs or otherwise, please be in touch!
The Green Thumb