Dig It! Spring Flowering Bulbs
October 2011 newsletter
by Sage & Snow Garden Club
October 12, 2011
Flora has been busy enjoying autumn in Sublette County. One of her favorite activities is planning next year's garden, including planting many different flower bulbs.
Is it too late to plant flower bulbs? Signed, Behind the Curve
Dear BC, No it is not too late to plant spring-flowering bulbs; you can plant bulbs until the ground freezes. Crocus, daffodils, tulips, & grape hyacinths are some of the beautiful spring-flowering bulbs that do well in our location. Since we live in a primarily Zone 3 area, September is the best time to plant bulbs for spring blooms. However, since microclimates in your yard may account for either Zone 2 (colder) or Zone 4 (warmer) overall conditions, consider planting Zone 2 areas in early September & Zone 4 areas in late September to early October. Just do it!
Can I plant bulbs in containers? Signed, Clay
Dear Clay, Certainly you can plant bulbs in containers, but I would not leave them out in our very cold winters, since the bulbs usually do not survive because there is not enough insulating quality to the container. If you want to plant in a container, keep it in a cold building over winter & bring it out in early spring so that the bulbs don't sprout during the winter, but so they also do not freeze. Let me know how the container planting works for you.
I find growing any kind of plant difficult because of our harsh weather. Are there certain bulbs that do better than others in Sublette County? Signed, Cold & Windy
Dear C&W, What you are basically asking for is hardy plants; those that can be left in the ground safely all year even where frost penetrates deeply into the soil. Most of the beloved bulbs of spring (bulbs planted in the fall) are in this category - crocus, daffodils, tulips, & hyacinths are the most familiar ones. Lilies & many perennials are also hardy in most zones. Bulbs benefit greatly from a 2-4" deep mulch of shredded bark or hardwood, compost or leaves. Mulch prevents the ground from alternately freezing & thawing, which can heave the bulbs out of the ground during winter. In summer, mulch conserves moisture & suppresses weeds. Wait until the ground freezes before applying a winter mulch to fall-planted bulbs.
Dear Flora, How do I pick out the best bulbs to increase the likelihood of success?
Signed, Just Wondering
Dear JW, Look for bulbs that are zoned for this region, and also look for bulbs that are not bruised or falling apart. A healthy looking bulb will be more likely to produce a healthy flower.
Since the flower bud already exists in the bulb you purchase, it is important the bulb be of top quality. It should be firm, plump & heavy for its size, with no visible cuts or bruises - minor nicks are to be expected. Soft spots indicate decay or disease, but also check for the odor of decay. Usually, the larger bulbs produce larger blooms. Try to purchase bulbs where you can see them so they can be inspected. Look for bulbs graded "top size". If you use mail or internet order, make sure the nursery is known for quality or has been referred by a trusted gardener. Store your bulbs in a cool dark place, about 50 - 60 degrees F, if they cannot be planted immediately. Be sure to select bulbs hardy enough for your zone. Most bulbs will require full sun to bloom well, but some will take partial shade. Choose varieties suited to the planting site. If you are in region that experiences high winds, choose a short variety to minimize breakage. Colder regions will avoid late spring freeze damage by choosing late blooming varieties.
Dear Flora, How deep do I need to plant my bulbs? Signed, Hole-in-the-Ground
Dear HG, Plant the bulbs with at least twice as much soil on top as the bulb is round. Remember to plant with the point up.
Dear Flora, How can I have a garden with continuously flowering bulbs? Signed, Stretch
Dear Stretch, You might consider planting different types of bulbs in layers. For example, you could plant a layer of tulips first, then a layer of daffodils on top of the tulips, & finally on top, a layer of crocus. You will have several weeks of flowers.
Dear Flora, I know that daffodil foliage should not be cut down after the bulb flowers. But the foliage gets very ugly. How can I hide the ugly foliage? Signed, Hidden Virtues
Dear HV, You are very wise not to cut the foliage back until it completely dries. You can hide the ugly foliage by planting directly on top of the bulbs or in front of the bulbs with a plant that is taller than the bulb foliage or, at least, complements the bulb foliage. Just use your imagination!
Dear Flora, Something ate my bulbs IN THE GROUND! Signed, Screaming Mimi.
Dear Mimi, Enclose your bulbs next time in a wire cage. You might also want a depth charge, but that's another column.
Dear Flora, How can I get Flora to answer my gardening questions? Signed, In the Dark
Dear ID, Send any gardening questions to the Sage & Snow Garden Club, Box 2280, Pinedale, WY, 82941; to email@example.com; or call 307-367-4380 to speak to a Master Gardener.
Dear Flora, How can I meet other gardeners in the Pinedale area? Signed, New in Town
Dear NIT, The Garden Club meets the third Tuesday in the month, so the next meeting will be October 18. We get together at the Sublette County Weed & Pest Office at 12 South Bench Road, Pinedale (307-367-4728). Social time starts at 4:30 P.M., followed by a short business session at 5:00 P.M. To find out more about the Garden Club, go to our website at https://sites.google.com/site/sageandsnowgardenclub/.