Planting Bulbs

Planting Bulbs

While there are many things I have posted on that can inspire others to garden, paint, research their favourite flower, just to name a few, one activity that much of the Northern Hemisphere has in common in the fall is planting spring flowering bulbs. My last post gave brief information on bulbs and their origin, leading to this more factual information on the steps to actually planting bulbs and corms.

 

corm

corm

bulbs

bulbs

 

Tulips are merely one of many bulbs, along with Hyacinths, Daffodils and Narcissus that are the most widely known bulbs. The structure of a bulb’s interior is composed of fleshy, modified leaf like layers, which would be easily visible if it was cut in half. Corms such as crocus and gladiolas may look similar to bulbs, but they are basically thick stem like tissue.

Whether you choose true bulbs or corms, be certain they are winter hardy.  Remember then, to provide the proper temperature for  vernalization to take place. Vernalization is derived from the Latin word vernus, or spring, and is the required exposure to cold winter weather which allows the plant to grow and flower. If you live in a warmer zone than an 8, where the temperature outside will not provide the required temp of 5-10 degrees Celsius (40-50 Fahrenheit), then forcing bulbs in your fridge is a good option. Instructions for this will follow those for gardeners who will be planting outside in the flower beds.

Bulbs can be planted almost until the ground freezes, but early to mid October planting allows time for the bulbs to settle before the cold winter starts. There are many things to consider when planning what and where to plant, but with a few basics, anyone can have lovely spring blooms!

 

planting info

 

SUNLIGHT

Despite the deciduous trees having no leaves in the spring, shade from buildings and evergreen trees is still a factor to consider. With a shadier area in the front garden both at home and at the cottage, I was concerned about how this would impact the blooms there. After a bit of digging, into books, I found that bulbs labelled “early flowering” were the best for this situation. Really this classification of bulbs is not based on a specific family, genus or species, but the fact that they bloom and flower with less UV rays than other plants…hence the early designation. I other words, these bulbs, that require less UV are better suited to shadier areas.

SOIL

Bulbs sleep all winter, blanketed in soil, until the temperature there has chilled them for approximately eight weeks below 10 degrees Celsius or 50  degrees Fahrenheit, long enough for their growth cycle to begin. This is an important factor to consider as with planting any annuals or perennials.

If your soil is sandy , like at the my cottage, any natural compost, peat moss, cocoa fibre  or organic aged manure  that can be worked into the soil  will help provide a more even moisture content  throughout the winter in to spring. If the soil is too dense, these additions can also break up the clumps that often prevent adequate drainage.

Basically you need to add anything natural that will help lock in moisture and provide nutrients. Adding clay soil to offset the sandy is good, or vice versa, but remember to ensure nutrient levels are high.

Organic matter, in addition to being a good additive for improved soil fertility, also provides food for earthworms and beneficial bacteria in the soil. These creatures break down the soli and its nutrients so they can be absorbed well by the forming bulb roots and all plants as they grow.

 NUTRIENTS

Certainly the better flowing nutrient laden soil is better for both spring and summer flowering bulbs. In addition to augmenting the soil itself, the addition of blood or bone meal, provides a boost to the bulbs themselves.  Approximately ¼ to ½ a teaspoon can be added to the hole around each planted bulb.

Blood meal as a dry powder made from animal blood that provides much needed nitrogen to the soil. In addition, spread on or slightly below the ground level, the scent is a deterrent to small animals such as rabbits and squirrels. Bone meal is crushed bone that provides higher amounts of phosphorus which is good for root growth, but it may in fact attract animals looking for bones.

A good soluable general fertilizer 10-10-10 can also be added to the soil and then watered or dug in again when the bulbs begin to shoot out of the earth.  This can be mixed with the blood or bone meal and should be in the soil down to below the level of the bulbs being planted.

LOCATION

Again, the sunny spots will probably produce the best blooms with early flowering bulbs the best selection for shadier areas. Evergreen trees will shade all year round but do help even out the soil temperatures close by, evening out extreme fluctuations that can damage bulbs. In addition, spring bulbs planted on a slope will tend to bloom earlier than bulbs in a dip or gulley as warm air rises and cold air tends to settle in lower areas.

PREPARATION

Beyond the soil preparation, there are a few basics that can be prepared in advance. Collecting clean spades and trowels as well as blood/bone meal or other fertilizer helps cut down on the actual planting time. Also knowing the location to plant, whether it is in an existing garden or part of a new garden design, and proper spacing of all bulbs to be planted, is vital for enhanced garden design and good spring growth.

METHOD OF PLANTING

There are basically two methods of planting, both of which require the gardener to know the depth of planting. As a general rule of thumb the bulbs or corms are planted with the fine tip up and to a depth of approximately 3x the height of the bulb itself.  Checking the package or growing directions at the nursery will also help. Good gardening practise is also never to plant in even numbers as it seems odd number produce a more natural look.

 

1. Using a spade or small shovel, one large hole is dug at the required depth for the assortment of bulbs requiring that depth. Using a tape measure or judging by eye are the basic way of measuring the depth. Then a small bone /blood meal or natural fertilizer is spread lightly in the whole before placing bulbs.

 

grouping in one large hole

 

If space allows for any smaller bulbs/corms to be planted, once the bigger bulbs are partially buried, spread more nutrients and add those buds.

 

smaller bulbs above

 

2. This method is similar but uses a small trowel or a bulb planter. There are short handled manual bulb planters that require you to be on your hands and knees and many long handled versions where you stand and use your feet to force the tool in to the ground.

 

bulb planter

 

 

 

 

 

There are many of both types available at local garden centres, many of which have the depth scale right on the tool. Again, nutrient supplement is added to the whole once the soil is removed, before the bulbs are added.

larger bulbs in place

best individual holes

small bulbs indiv

 

 

 

 

 

 

FINAL STAGES OF PLANTING

After bulbs have received their nutritional supplement, been spaced properly in depth and between each other, soil is filled in around them. Then mulch on top will provide an extra measure of winter protection and keep the temperature and moisture levels more constant. Finally a thorough watering will ensure the ground there has adequate moisture for the  bulbs to get started once there is a spring thaw.

REFRIGERATOR BULB GARDENING

If you can purchase at garden centres or by the Internet, spring bulbs that require vernalization, never fear as your fridge is near! There are many articles on what is called forcing bulbs and sometime the misconception that they have to actually be frozen.

Basically the easy version is as follows:

-good soil

-pot 13-18 cm deep  ( 6-9 inches)

– few inches of soil in bottom so bulb is ad required depth

-add bulb and cover well (with nutrients to be watered in later)

-water thoroughly

-put in a plastic bag with one end open for ventilation

-place in the back of the fridge

-check on it every week to ensure it does not get too dry

-after approximately 6-8 weeks  there should be small shoots

-bring out of fridge in to partially lit room for a few days

-water with fertilizer and then bring to a brightly lit room or window ledge

-enjoy!

Final thoughts

Remember, while many things seem to go wrong, bulbs are very forgiviing. In fact, once I planted my bulbs upside down and although it took some extra time, they did bloom. Only when I thinned them out a few years later, did I realize the pointed tip was facing down!  🙂  Happy planting!

Holland  Commercial Tulip Farming

Holland Commercial Tulip Farming

 

Bulb Beginnings

Fall is a wonderfully time of year to enjoy your garden and for bulb beginnings! Not only are flowers still in bloom without the heat of the hot summer sun, but here in Ontario Canada we enjoy the colourful changing of the tree leaves. Certainly the marvelous Maple shows its yellow, orange and red leaves as the last stage of the life of a leaf. Sumac trees and shrubbery radiate red in their long finger like leaves as does the burning bush ( aka Winged Euonymous alata)

 

Burning Bush

 

 

From trees to small garden perennials, the leaves that are leaving us…do so in a blaze of glory. Even some annuals show off their foliage as I witness first hand at my cottage this past weekend. In fact, intent on cleaning up the garden and cutting down the bare stalks of cone-flowers and other garden favourites, I headed out with spade in hand.

Cone-flowers

Bulb beginnings

Like many a fall or autumn day, the weather gave up another bright sunny day and the plants untimely death was postponed. Not only could I not bring myself to trim things back as cottage season comes to a close, but I finally  prepared to plant the most widely planted fall perennial… spring flowering bulbs , purchased several weeks ago.

 

Bulbs bust out of the garden along the sunny side garden in mass. Even the front garden has its share of purple, white and a few red tulips. Several years ago I planted white, pink and purple Hyacinths along the darker side of the house there and each year since they have burst in to wonderful bloom. Today I planted White Narcissus and purple Grape hyacinth spring bulbs whose proper name is Muscari.

 

With each bulb planted, I began to wonder where they originated and what family they were from. Basic research revealed that a vast number of bulbs such as tulips and crocus actually originated in Turkey before they were moved and in some cases stolen. Often research and exploration led to removal and relocation in some cases leading to extinction in the natural habitats.

 

Spring flowering Tulips

 

I was surprised to read that Turkey had areas stripped of bulbous plants, and that tulips were not all from Holland originally. Certainly as usual this fact led me to  dig deeper in to the origins of two of the more commonly found spring flowering bulbs.

 

Tulips

There are many spring flowering bulbs that are planted in the fall, but probably one of the most recognized is the Tulip. Tulips belong to the Liliaceae Family, Genus Tulipa, and have at least 109 species. They are found in Turkey and are indigenous to mountainous areas there as well as in central Asian countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan, specifically the Pamir Mountains.

Under the Ottoman Empire, which was founded in Turkey approximately 1299, commercial cultivation of the flower began. Approximately when the empire reached its peak at 1590 covering parts of Asia, Europe and Africa, tulips began to arrive in northwestern Europe. There is some confusion as to who introduced them to European but it was definitely politically connected and took place approximately 1559.

By 1573 tulips were seen planted in Vienna in several garden, eventually via private gardens the bulbs made it to the Netherlands officially in 1594.  For many years the bulbs were cultivated but on such a small scale that eventually they became highly coveted and a Tulip Mania began. This mania peaked 1636-37 when bulb trading costs were reportedly higher than a tradesman’s yearly salary! Despite the high prices, tulips changed hands rapidly, until the trade ground to a halt and commercial cultivation on large scale began.

 

 

Holland Commercial Tulip Farming

Crocus

Crocus, another widely popular spring flowering perennial flower actually grows from corms. From the Iridaceae ( Lily) Family, genus Croci with 80 species, these flowering plants are native to woodland, scrub and meadows in Central and Southern Europe. They are also native to, North Africa and the Middle East, on the islands of the Aegean, and across Central Asia to western China. Like the tulip, crocuses were also native to areas of Turkey.

Cultivation and harvesting of crocus was first documented in the Mediterranean, notably on the island of Crete. The first crocus seen in the Netherlands, where crocus species are not native, were from corms brought back in the 1560’s from Constantinople by the Holy Roman Emperor’s ambassador and by 1620, new garden varieties had been developed. Slowly from there commercial cultivation began and these plants also spread across the world.

 

Crocus

 

 

 

Bulbs and Corms present day

Thankfully with hybridization, research and mass growing fields bulbs of most types are economically priced.  Worldwide gardeners can certainly enjoy the blooms of perennial bulbs, whether they are spring blooming such as those in Canada and the United States.

For those of you who live in tropical areas or those who are above Zone 9 or who do not have the required temperatures of approximately 0-4 degrees C, tulips and many other spring bulbs would have to be forced in the refrigerator.  Of course, if your country has a mountainous region, such as Turkey, where most of the tulips, crocus and other spring bulbs originated, naturalized planting and garden planting may both be possible.

While there are a great many things to consider when planting bulbs, even the new garden can successfully plant for a wonderful spring bloom filled garden. As with most plants, the sun, soil and nutrients are all factors to be considered and knowing your garden’s details will help you when purchasing individual bulbs at local garden centres.  Certainly the staff there will be happy to assist you if the information on each bulb display does not have all the information you need.

Even local supermarkets often sell packages of bulbs in their florist area or even within the produce section. Usually there is printed information on these packages stating planting depth, light requirements, planting depth and plant height when in bloom.

 

My next article will cover all the basic information any gardener would need to plant these lovely perennials. In addition I  would be happy to answer any questions left for me under Comments.

Before long, armed with your trusty garden tools , helpful information and enthusiasm, your hard work will be rewarded in the Spring, with an inspirational  flowering garden to be proud of!

Purple and double pink tulips

 

Chrysanthemums

All along my street  this fall I notice gardens  blooming with sedum, tall grasses, Zinnias, roses and then of course there are the hardy Chrysanthemums. Now that the extreme heat and humidity of summer has passed, leaving much more pleasant weather for us to enjoy, it is as if the plants recognize it as well. Fall flower gardens are amazing!

 

 

Chrysanthemums, or mums to most gardeners, have been on my mind lately as pots of them are everywhere you look. Whether it is a local mall garden centre, a nursery, hardware mega store or even a small local department store, there are racks of their brightly coloured blooms.

Recently I rode my bicycle past yet another garden where they were bursting in to bloom, and realized how little I know  about this well know and lovely fall plant? Just where did these mums come from originally and how did they end up on in our gardens?

 

Potted Mums

Years ago I regularly watched a show on HGTV called Flower Power that explored these and many more questions. In each episode the host, who was and still is a well known garden expert, would present a synopsis on a different flower. I also enjoyed the photography of the plant’s country of origin as well as its many varieties.

While I am not an expert, with many gardening resource books and the internet at my finger tips investigation should be a breeze. Perhaps now is the time for another plant   adventure, inspired by many gardens this time, not just my own.

 

Chrysanthemums

 

Chrysanthemums or mums are herbaceous perennial flowering plants that are native to Asia and northeastern Europe. They are related to marigolds, zinnias, dahlias and sunflowers, by being from the same family Asteracea. Originally cultivated in China as a flowering herb, as early as the 15th century B.C, it is believed the early forms were Chrysanthemum Sinese and Chrysanthemum Indictum. In addition to a wide variety of uses the blooms were incorporated in to their artwork and are still to this day.

 

Chrysanthemum indicum

Chrysanthemum Sinese

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I was unable to determine the range of this flower and its spread, records say the flower was brought to Japan sometime in the 8th century. There it took on as equally prestigious status as in China, by becoming an important symbols used widely in festivals, and artwork. In fact, they were embraced by the Emperor as his official seal in the 12th century and it remains even now a symbol of the Japanese Imperial Family. In addition, during the 18th century Japan created the Grand Order of the Badge of the Chrysanthemums.

 

Imperial Seal of Japan

 

The name Chrysanthemum was given to this plant genus in the 17th Century with its spread throughout Europe, by the Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus. Linneaus is considered to be the father of modern plant classification. The name Chrysanthemum is derived from the Greek word Chrynos which means “gold” and the word Anthemon which means” flower”. The original flowers were small, yellow blooms,as shown above but exploration eventually revealed about thirty species that were documented.

Chrysanthemums extended through Europe and to North America. In 1846 the Stoke Newington Chrysanthemum Society was formed, becoming the National Chrysanthemum Society in 1884. In addition to meetings etc, they held three shows yearly at the Royal Aquarium in London until 1902 and then at the Crystal Palace. Despite interest in the Chrysanthemum in North America, I found no information on society’s formation until the 1940’s

Read more: http://www.nationalchrysanthemumsociety.co.uk

 

1902 Garden Show Poster

Plant Description

General

The many varieties, colours etc. are vast, to an ordinary gardener these plants are separated in to two groups, the exhibition plants grown primarily for floral arrangements and the hardy plants grown by gardeners across Canada. The plants range in height from about 15 cm to 150 cm with deeply lobed leaves.

Bloom

The flowers have been classified internationally in to 13 different bloom forms including daisy-like, pom-pom, spiders and the more traditional garden variety of single and double blossoms. The more exotic and taller varieties require more stringent conditions of temperature and care, including staking due to their height. Generally these are commercially raised to show off in florist bouquets and for Chrysanthemum enthusiasts up to the challenge.

Mums primarily bloom in lovely shades of bronze, lavender, white, pink, purple red and yellow. Of course, as new hybrids are developed, the variety of sizes, blooms, shapes and colours grow.

 

 

http://www.plant-care.com/hardy-chrysanthemums.html

 

Plant Usage

Ornamental

The chrysanthemums are the second most popular flower sold after the Rose. With thousands of cultivars in different colours, heights petal size and formation there is something for everyone. The garden hardy mums survive in zones 3-9, produce lots of small blooms and require no staking. The exhibition varieties are grown primarily by collectors and for the Florist industry, requiring much more detailed care.

The variety of colours, hardiness even of individual flowers from the small pom-pom to the larger exotics is one of the reasons this flowering plant is so popular. Once cut, the chrysanthemum flowers have an excellent survival time which makes them an excellent choice for all types of flower arrangement. In fact mums are often the flower of choice for sculptural elements in flower shows for example.

 

 

 

 

 

Culinary

Both the leaves and flowers are used for seasoning in several ways throughout the world. Flowers are used in many Asian countries to make tea, flavour rice wine and to add aroma to soup. Tiny flowers are also used as a garnish and the leaves are boiled and eaten as greens.

Insecticide

If you use environmentally safe insecticides, you may have seen the word Pyrethrin on the label. Pyrethrin, from crushed Chrysanthemum seed, is an organic compound used in a liquid, oil or powder form, as an insecticide. Specific to the nervous system of insects, this compound kills or repels most plant insects, while being far less toxic to birds and mammals than many synthetic insecticides.

Environmental

While we all know mums as well as all flowering plants brighten up both gardens and any room they are placed in, NASA took things one step further. They included this plant in their Clean Air Study and determined Chrysanthemums were one of the top 10 plants most effective in removing Formaldehyde, Benzene, and Carbon Monoxide from the air inside a building.

 

Medicinal

Alternative medicine maintains there are many medicinal health benefits from the Chrysanthemum, especially when steeped in to a tea. Traditional Chinese medicine promotes the tea as a great way to prevent sore throats and fevers of a cold and to lessen the symptoms when you have a cold. In Korea they use it as a stimulant to keep you awake, while Western holistic and herbal medicine touts the tea as a treatment for atherosclerosis and varicose veins.

Externally the steeped flowers are squeezed to remove excess water and then used as a compress to treat a variety of eye ailments such as dry or itchy eyes, blurry or diminished vision as well as the reducing the inflammation of acne.

While studies have shown some effectiveness to these treatments, more data is needed for most traditional medicine doctors. In addition, adverse reactions to consuming and even handling chrysanthemums have been recorded. Symptoms range from upset stomachs to skin rashes, while the vast majority of people have no reaction what so ever.

Read more: Health Benefits of Chrysanthemum Tea | eHow.com

 

Summary

Summing up the centuries of history, lineage, usage and beauty of Chrysanthemums really is impossible, therefore I won’t attempt to. Instead I’m going to fill my car up with beautiful mums and take them home. Then no matter where I sit in my garden their lovely blooms will brighten my day…and I can imagine a Buddhist monk watering his plants generations ago, on a sunny porch in Tibet!