In the garden: Plan next season’s spring bulbs at any time

It might seem like an odd time of year to write about spring bulbs. After all, they have almost finished flowering, you can’t buy them until late summer or early autumn, and the time for planting will be no earlier than October or November, before the soil frozen.

But there is a very good reason to talk about it now. This spring’s bulb fair was nothing short of spectacular. We can thank our cold, wet weather for that, even though it has put a damper on planting vegetable gardens.

Right now, while you can still see the remnants of your bulb foliage, it’s time to take stock of which ones you’ve grown, what gaps in your landscape would be perfect for growing bulbs, and what types that you would like to add to your collection.

My many tufts of tulips were breathtaking this spring. I grow them in our garden because it has a big deer fence around it. Deer think tulips are delicious, and I certainly don’t want to pamper them by planting tulips in front beds.

In addition to growing a few varieties of Darwin tulips, including Dordogne and Pink Impression, I slowly added a few species of tulips to the mix. Although they are often smaller, they are magnificent.

Two years ago I planted Dasystemon tulips, which have bright yellow flowers with white tips. I am happy to report that they have started to multiply and have really outdone themselves this year. Last fall I planted Tubergen’s Gem (Tulipa clusiana var. chrysantha), which has yellow inner petals and red outer petals.

I also ventured into green tulips. There are many varieties that feature colored petals with a band of green running through the middle. I chose Artist for its salmon pink petals and green accents. When backlit by the sun, these flowers are breathtaking.

Like most gardeners, I have lots of grape hyacinth tufts all over the place. I love their clusters of bright blue flowers, but thought it was time to experiment with more unusual types of muscari.

Ocean Magic’s flower spikes are dark purple at the bottom, sky blue in the middle, and white at the top. I also added an unusual grape hyacinth (Muscari macrocarpum) called Golden Fragrance, which has clusters of golden flowers topped with dark purple.

As you probably know, these are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what’s available. It’s the perfect time to plan your fall planting, when garden centers and online bulb suppliers have received their new stock. This is also the time of year to remember two important tips for growing bulbs:

Once your bulbs have finished flowering, you’ll probably feel compelled to pull up the foliage. Avoid the temptation because as long as the leaves are green, they are photosynthesising. This helps the bulb store energy for next year’s blooms. Once the leaves are dead, you can remove them.

Remember to feed your bulbs after they have flowered but while the leaves are still green. Use a fertilizer high in phosphorus (the middle number on the package). This will encourage next year’s flower production. Bonemeal is an organic soil amendment that will meet their needs. Commercial organic bulb fertilizers are also available at garden centers.

Look for a slideshow of beautiful spring bulbs in this week’s video on my YouTube channel youtube.com/susansinthegarden. They should inspire you to do a little shopping so you can enjoy more beauty in your garden next spring.

Susan Mulvihill is the author of “The Vegetable Garden Pest Handbook”. She can be contacted at [email protected] Watch this week’s video on youtube.com/susansinthegarden.

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