Thursday, September 26, 2013

Autumn Bulb Planting

It's that time of year again.  Early autumn in Wisconsin is nothing but contradictions.  It's hot enough during the day that I don't wear a jacket, but by dark, I'm drinking hot cocoa.  My tiger lilies and vegetable plants are pretty much kaput, but my zinnias and rudbeckia are still going strong.  I don't really like gardening at this time of year because part of me wants to clip all my perennials down and close up flower gardening shop for the year and part of me wants to wait until every last flower has had a chance to bloom.  So, today I made a compromise.  I cut back the tiger lilies, and English wallflower, and dug up the calla lily bulbs, but left everything that was still looking green or flowering.

I also planted some bulbs.  In Wisconsin, now is the time of year to start planting tulips, iris, hyacinths, and crocus.  If you live farther south you can wait another month or two.  I plant bulbs pretty much every autumn.  To me, it's one of the most exciting parts of spring- seeing the snow melt and the first flowers begin to appear.

Some things seem to come back every year, but tulips are really finicky for me.  I get some that will come up on their own, but I always plant more bulbs to be sure there's plenty of color.  This year I bought two bags of tulips and one of iris.

Here are the most import tips I have for bulb planting.

1. Plant so the pointy side is up.  That's where your stem will come out of.  Think of your bulb as a garlic bulb.  The bottoms look the same.

2. Don't listen to what the package says about planting bulbs so many inches apart from each other.  If you want big pops of color, dig up a spot and plant the three to five bulbs in the same spot.  Let them touch.  Trust me, they're hardy little buggers and they won't choke each other out.  They'll all come up and you'll have a nice clump of color.

3. Dig a deep enough hole.  Your bulb needs to be completely covered.  This is why you want to plant before frost sets in and makes this a nearly impossible job.

4.  Be patient.  After you plant, nothing is going to happen for about six months (in Wisconsin at least).  E.B. White called autumn bulb planting, "plotting the resurrection" and he's right.  Just when you start to think the snow will stay forever, it will start melting and you'll notice little shafts of green poking out of the muddy flower beds and sometimes even the last bits of snow.

5.  If you don't have a flowerbed, you can still plant bulbs in pots.  Keep them outside, where it's cold.  You can also force bulbs once winter is here.  I'll show you some tips for that in a few months.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE bulb plants (and for whatever reason, I seem to kill them less often). I hope yours spring up healthy and lovely! After 2-3 years, you can gently dig them up and separate the baby bulbs growing on the parent it's the garden that keeps on giving. :)

    You might try a mix of early, mid, and late bloomers, too....I've had the most luck with daffodils, tulips, and irises spaced apart and planted 6" deep (although, here in Seattle we don't get hard freezes, and only snow a few days for a short time, so I'm sure that makes a difference). I can't wait to see yours in bloom!