By Lucy Harrell T. C. N. P. A Specialist on Demanding Environments
I am going to start this article by saying that my knowledge of bulbs is limited to only the very easiest absolutely
perennial bulbs. I am too lazy to plant a whole lot of something that won’t come back every year or needs
fussing with—so I am assuming that you are too— however if you want to experiment with other bulbs- by
all means–go for it –and tell me if you find a really good one to add to my nice & easy Spring Bulb list.
You may notice right away that much of my advice is different from what you read on bulb labels or in books. Often the information on bulb labels and some books – (just like on plants) is not written for this area. We don’t have to worry about how cold it gets—( which is a worry in the north where soil freezes so you have to plant deep there for that reason)— Here- no matter what kind or size of bulb you are planting – only plant it only as deep as twice it’s size. After all the poor thing has to work itself up through our clay soils—if you plant bulbs as far down as the card that came in the sack says-it would never make it to the top of the ground to bloom in time-and it would rot trying!!! ( 3 times deep as the size of the bulb in sandy soil) “still trying to reach the top”
Plant spring blooming bulbs in early-late December here—even in early January is OK. If you plant them too early in early-mid November—we could have so many warm days in Dec & January that they could start to come up-and then- you have to know -that we will get a freeze that would get them before they bloom. After the first year –they will regulate themselves. Choose a sunny spot that gets- at least-winter-spring sun and plant the pointy end up. Good drainage is best-at least don’t overwater.
I don’t use anything except a small amount of a 50/50 mixture of worm castings & rock phosphate when I plant them.—In the years after that –they will feed them selves off of the foliage— That is why it is very important to leave that foliage on and let it dry up.
My favorite spring blooming bulbs are Daffodils—they have to be #1 for easy- and so worth it — When they have finished blooming tie the foliage in a knot so it will lay on the ground and be hidden by Spring & Summer Plants that are planted in the garden by it. Do not remove the foliage to get the best blooms the next year. Herbaceous Daylilies make good companions for your daffodils—they both like sun—the daylilies are gone in the winter ( they are herbaceous)-and they pop up as soon as the daffodils have finished blooming — to cover up the daffodil foliage. Plant the daffodil bulbs between the daylilies.
Another way to use daffodils is to plant them in a groundcover area like asian jasmine or amongst wood ferns planted in an area that gets winter & spring sun because it is under a deciduous tree . Be sure to dig out plenty of space for the bulbs— There are several good varieties of daffodils that you will find available—Grand Primo , Falconet, Avalanche-all have many fragrant blooms per plant (more then most) and are my favorites because of that. These tend not to be the largest size of individual blooms that you will find in reading about daffodils -but these are beautiful and arrive at the right time here—not too early to get ruined by freeze and not too late to be burned up. Blooms usually appear in mid -March.
Grand Primo Falconet, Avalanche, Grape Hyacinth
This little critter just goes wild here-use it as a border plant—along a edge that will be covered by the perennial that you will plant behind it in summer—it gets a little messy looking otherwise. It is a tiny very low bloomer-but very sweet smelling in the cool March air.
-Sometimes the first bell to arrive at the ball—this is truly one of my favorite sights-sometimes as early as late February- tiny white –very fragrant -bell shape flowers appear –and they last a long time for spring bulbs. These spring bulbs fare well planted amongst summer perennials . They can also be planted in with groundcovers or ferns in areas where they would receive winter & spring shade.
That’s all I know from experience-but I am willing to learn more. If you would like to learn more –I would recommend Chris Wiesinger’s lovely book titled Heirloom Bulbs for Today. It is full of good information and great stories about his experiences bulb hunting. Chris is a local author and owner of the Sothern Bulb Company. His website is www.southernbulbs.com
Have a lovely November-Love & Luck, Lucy Harrell