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GardenSMART :: Time To Think About Spring Bulbs

Time To Think About Spring Bulbs

By Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Now is a good time to be thinking about next spring’s bulbs. Why is that? Because now is the time to order bulbs from online and mail-order retailers.

Of course, local garden centers will have perfectly good bulbs in stock, but for a broader selection of colors and more unusual blooms, online or mail order is the way to go. The bulbs are shipped in fall when it’s time to plant them. Here are some tips.

Bloom time. Tulips, daffodils, and alliums bloom early, mid or late season, depending on the cultivar. Gardeners with shadier or woodland landscape should seek out early season bulbs because they will bloom before the trees and shrubs leaf out.

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Glory-of-the-Snow (Chionodoxa) is an early bloomer with starry, lavender-blue flowers that shade to white in the center. An excellent naturalizer when planted in soil that drains well, it is suited to growing in garden beds, lawns, woodland areas and rock gardens. Left undisturbed in sun or light shade, Glory-of-the-Snow often self-sows, eventually forming a dense carpet of blooms. They are deer and rodent resistant. Photo courtesy Colorblends.com

Several minor bulbs, which include glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa spp.), squill (Scilla siberica), tommies crocus (C. tommasinianus), not only bloom early, they are perfect for naturalizing as floral carpets under trees and shrubs or in the lawn.

Indianapolis gardener Carol Michel (maydreamsgardens.com) recently told me she’s ordered 500 more glory-of-the-snow to add to the thousand she’s already planted in her lawn. These are especially for lawn areas because the foliage ripens and replenishes the bulbs under ground before the grass has to be mowed.

Deer and squirrel. If deer like to dine in your garden, plant daffodils (Narcissus spp.), which are toxic to animals and humans. Deer do not eat daffodils, and in our climate, these are among the most reliable spring bulbs to plant. Squirrels also tend not to bother daffodils.

Tulips (Tulipa spp.), on the other hand, are like lollipops for deer, which eat the tops. Squirrels like them, too, and eat the bulbs. You can protect tulips with animal repellants, such as Plantskydd, Animal Stopper or Liquid Fence. (At least we don’t have to contend with Moose and Squirrel!)

Colors. Go with what you like. Some gardeners plant a new color scheme each fall, especially with tulips, which tend to decline year after year. Replenish the look by buying and planting a few each year. Some companies, such as Colorblends.com and Longfield-Gardens.com, mix the colors for you. Other favorite places to look for bulbs: oldhousegardens.com, brentandbeckysbulbs.com and vanengelen.com.

Size counts. Smaller or lower grade bulbs are fine for naturalizing, but for the best seasonal show, go with the largest you can find, especially tulips. Bulbs are graded by their size, and with daffodils, the number of noses, or growth points they have. Don’t buy bulbs that are soft or moldy.

Author bio: Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp is a garden writer and speaker. She writes the blog, Hoosier Gardener.

 


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