GARDENING WITH PETER BOWDEN


WRITTEN BY PETER BOWDEN

A couple of years ago, my wife and I moved from a house we’d lived in for 30 years.  We were able to dig up and move around 200 of our collection of perennials for which we were very grateful.  Since we moved in late summer, our collection of spring flowering bulbs was left behind.  That fall we were busy building new beds and planting our perennials so they would be ready to grow into their new home before winter.  

It was wonderful to see them the following spring, but we missed the thrill that our daffodils, alliums, tulips, and other spring bulbs gave us long before the perennials put on their show.  

We resolved then to make the investment and effort to plant even more bulbs at our new home…and we have.  In the last couple of years, we have added hundreds of flower bulbs to our beds.  We’ve learned that planting in large groups is the best way to enjoy these harbingers of spring.  By planting these bulbs, we are saying, “I know that the next season will arrive - brighter and better.”  You may be planting flower bulbs, but you are really sowing Mother Nature’s promise of brighter days.

These small bulbs are a miracle in themselves.  Think of them as rechargeable batteries.  They don’t store electricity but “growth energy.” When you buy bulbs, they’re all “charged up” for you by the producer in Holland. 

Daffodils, tulips and all the Dutch bulbs offered for sale in the fall must be planted before winter.  They need at least 8 weeks of chilling to stimulate them into their next flowering and growth cycle.  Without it, the bulb won’t be ready to grow in spring. 

In spring, the first flowers to arrive will be the small crocus or muscari.  As they are finishing up, along come the daffodils or tulips.  When they finish, the grand finale will be the large showy alliums.  You’ll find all the information on bloom time and planting depth right on the packages of bulbs at the garden center.  Basically, dig the planting hole three times as deep as the size of the bulb and put a little dollop of bulb food at the bottom of the hole and plant.

The trick to perpetual success with bulbs is knowing how to “recharge the battery” after they flower in spring.  The “growth energy” stored in the bulb is quickly depleted during the all-out effort to reproduce (flower) in spring.  After the flowers go by, cut them off including the stem but leave the leaves.  Think of the bulbs’ leaves as solar collectors that change sunlight into “growth energy” that is sent to the bulb below for storage.   This is the time to feed your bulbs with Bulb-Tone.

That’s it…pretty simple.  Take time this fall to plant lots of bulbs and you’ll thank yourself when they emerge after the gloomy winter to announce the arrival of spring.  After a long flowerless winter, these first flowers of the season give us just the boost we need.

Thanks for the read!

 


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