Saturday, October 23, 2010

One of the reasons I love bulbs is the obvious- early spring color.  Bulbs, however, are like old-fashioned, European fairy woods to me.  They carpet meadows and can create these landscapes of miniature glory!!  While I love full size flowers, I’ve chosen some here that are miniature, delicate, airy and just special.  Oh, and they are deadly easy to grow!!!  Plant them in the fall, people.  Right now and colder is the perfect time!
Here is a fertilizing tip from our experts at Family Tree Nursery.  What I’ve heard and read in the past is: use a bulb fertilizer in the fall and every fall.  The Dutch say otherwise!  They say fertilize in SPRING, when foliage yellows (after bloom).  Use bone meal when planting (to encourage root growth) and lots of top dressing with compost.  Amend your soil so it’s LIGHT. Clay? Damp? Moist? Work in the compost. 

Bulbs I love:
‘Grape Hyacinth’, Muscari- Dense, fragrant spikes of cobalt blue/ purple/ white flowers. Superb when planted en masse and allowed to self-sow freely. Heirloom, 1877.  Muscari are accommodating, simple-to-grow, durable bulbs. Inexpensive and fast to spread, they're a perfect choice to create a carpet of soft blue beneath yellow or white Daffodils or early pink Tulips. Because Muscari are so often grown en masse and their flowers are small, it's easy to miss how beautiful and intricate they are. Not even the cleverest jeweler could create such delicate clusters of luminous blue or violet beads.  I picture them carpeting the forest floor in some primeval spring woods….
Culture: Muscari thrive in full sun or deciduous shade, tolerate practically any soil, and seem to live forever. They are ideal as companions for taller bulbs or flowering shrubs, and look marvelous set out in loose sweeps all by themselves. They spread!
Variety: There are color mixtures, blue/ blue purple/ white/ light blue. They all naturalize and are about the same size.  Pick your poison!

Narcissus or Daffodil bulbs will not survive in soils that are wet, especially during the winter. Avoid low-lying areas where water gathers or where the snow is late to melt in spring. Plant bulbs at a depth three times their height. Daffodil bulbs appreciate deep planting in light soil. If your soil is heavy, try planting less deeply than we recommend, making up the difference with a layer of mulch on top.
Culture: Plant larger or bedding-size bulbs 5-6 in. apart (4-5 bulbs per sq. ft.), smaller or landscape-size bulbs 3-4 in. apart (5 bulbs per sq. ft.), and the miniatures 3-4 in. apart (10-15 bulbs per sq. ft.). When planting, keep in mind that the blooms tend to face the prevailing direction of the sun; in a border viewed from the north, they will look away from you.
       -Do not separate bulbs that are attached at the base; the smaller bulb (known as an off-set or a "daughter" bulb) should not be detached from the parent bulb before planting.  
       -To make clumps of Daffodils easy to find, plant a few Grape Hyacinths (Muscari) amongst them; the Grape Hyacinths send up a bit of leaf growth in the fall. Fertilize with Bone meal in the fall and use bulb fertilizer in the Spring.  We recommend using a granular slow-release fertilizer formulated especially for bulbs. Hi-Yield Bulb Fertilizer or Espoma Bulb-Tone!
Variety: The miniature varieties we sell (suitable for a rockery, a mini garden, lining a garden path or the front of a bed) include Narcissi cyclamineus ‘Bellsong’ and ‘February Gold’.  They are known as species daffodils- the ‘native’ and nativizing type.  

‘Glory of the Snow’, Chionodoxa- About 4” H.  Look great naturalized under trees.  Pair with other small early blooming bulbs, like species daffodils, squill and muscari.  Has same culture and requirements as daffodils and muscari. 

‘Snowdrops’, Galanthus- about 6” H.  They are unique, wonderful early blooming gems.  They like moist, rich soils and do well in clay!  Top dress each autumn with bone meal.  Snowdrops are suitable for growing in borders, meadows, woodlands, and containers. They should be grown in a lightly shaded location in moist, cool soil such as equal parts of loam and compost or peat moss and sand. Plant the bulbs 3 or 4 inches deep and 2 or 3 inches apart in the fall. They look best when planted at least three or four plants together. Water Snowdrops well while they are blooming. Snowdrops can be difficult to establish in the garden and may take a couple of years to adjust to the new site, but, eventually, they will form large, compact groups.

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