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Gardening in the Rainy Zone.
Location: Washington, Kitsap Peninsula
Posted: Oct-01-2004 at 12:36am
Bulbs that bloom in spring for fall planting and I include will include rhizomes, corms and bulbs. All these spring bulbs I am posting will be reliably hardy here in our mild maritime climate, unless otherwise mentioned.
Most bulbs like a light, deep soil, rich in humus. Raised beds can accomplish this if you suffer from “clayitis”. Sandy soil is acceptable for bulbs, but the plants will benefit from organic amendments added yearly to increase humus in the soil. The most important part is the soil is well drained to prevent the bulbs from rotting. Exceptions to this rule are the calla lilies and some iris species.
Selecting your bulbs from the bins at your favorite nursery or from mail order has its pros and cons. Normally the bulbs go on display too early for planting time in your local stores. If you wait until planting time to choose your bulbs, they are picked over or sold out of your favorites. A lot of the time, the selections are slim to begin with. Mail order nurseries usually have great selections and will ship them at the proper planting time for our region. The problem I seem to have, is when the bulbs arrive, the ground is saturated with rain and the sky is falling with more rain and the last thing I want to do when the bulbs finally arrive, is go out to plant. It always seems like two weeks earlier would have been better to plant bulbs, than the week it actually arrives. I do like taking my time perusing the catalogs, selecting what I want in my own time and space.
Bulbs benefit from fertilizers high in phosphorous and low in nitrogen. If you are making your own complete organic fertilizer, it is simple to omit the ingredients that are high in nitrogen. When planting your bulbs, throw in a small handful of COF into the hole with the bulb before covering with soil. If using a chemical fertilizer follow the directions on the label.
For subsequent years of flowers from your bulbs let the foliage completely ripen before removing spent leaves when they go dormant. The leaves feed the bulbs and make the following year’s flowers. Cutting foliage back too soon, results in the bulbs loss of reserves.
A favorite place to plant many spring flowering bulbs is under deciduous trees. While the trees are bare, the plants underneath receive full sun. As the trees leaf out the plants are on the decline. Amongst the bulbs, deciduous ferns co-mingle. As the leaves decline on the bulb plants, the ferns leaf out and hide the dying foliage. Hostas also serve this function. In full sun situations, herbaceous perennials and annuals take the place of ferns in quickly covering the dying bulb foliage. Some old tips say to braid the foliage, but this can damage the leaves, so it is not a good tip for plants you want to come back every year. If you harvest flowers for the vase, be sure to leave a good amount of stem on the plant for the same reason.
Ornamental alliums fill the gap of late spring flowers with globular flowers in most species. One of the most spectacular are Allium christophii (Star of Persia), with stems up to 24 inches long, topped with purple to metallic blue, sometimes 10 to 12 inches in diameter! A great flower for the cutting garden too. A. ‘Lucille Ball’, a cross between A. giganteum and A. christophii reaches 40 inches high with a thick umbel of deep-lilac, star-shaped flowers that are two to three inches in diameter. A. ‘Globemaster’ has an eight-inch diameter umbel with violet flowers.
There are many small alliums too. One that I will not introduce into my garden again is Allium moly (Golden garlic, Lily leek). It is a bit to seedy-weedy for me. I always laugh when I read descriptions about how well it naturalizes. In my last garden, it naturalized all too well. An unusual allium is A. karataviense, with a very short stem the sphere of pale pink flowers sits on top of the leaves as if sitting on pedestal.
Some of the larger flowering alliums are on the expensive side. When I could not afford the fancy prices, I bought Elephant garlic from the grocery store, divided the cloves, and planted them. If you let them go to flower, they provide a beautiful lavender globe in the garden.
With most alliums, you may want to plant them behind low shrubs or perennials that will hide their foliage, as the foliage tends to die back just before or during its flowering peak.
Camassia quamash (Camass, Camas, Indian lily, Quamash, Wild hyacinth) one of our own native plants was a staple food cultivated by the indigenous people of our region and a mainstay in our western prairies in the Pacific Northwest. Their starry blue flowers is one of the reasons I grow them. The bulbs can grow on clay soil as long as the soil is well drained.
Propagate more plants by lifting the plants every third year and separating the bulblets after the plant goes dormant. No pests or diseases seem to be a problem.
Plant bulbs 4-6 inches deep.
For a sweet little plant with blue or white flowers, Chionodoxa (Glory-of-the-Snow) is a good choice for blooms. I grew them in my last garden but plan to introduce them to this garden as I miss them. They are not as well known or grown and I often wonder why. It is an easy bulb to grow and has no diseases or pests to bother it. Growing only six inches high it can be tucked into almost anywhere. Although it can, on occasion, grow twice as large. In their second year after planted they produce even more flowers than the first. Add a good mulch of compost every fall.
Propagate by dividing the clumps, or replanting the bulblets.
Plant three to four inches deep.
Eranthis (Winter aconite) is in flower very early, even earlier than Galanthus (Snowdrops) sometimes. Sometimes their cheery, yellow flowers have to peek out through snow. In their native environment, they grow in moist woodlands. They will grow well for us in our PNW gardens as moisture we have plenty when Eranthis wants and needs it. Slugs can be a problem for Eranthis.
Soak tuber over night and plant three to four inches deep.
The Foxtail lily is one I have wanted to grow for many years. I finally ordered them this year. I did not think they would grow well in our region but at last I saw them growing in a few gardens this year. Our winter moisture can kill them or make them emerge too early but good, dry mulch will help as well as very well drained soil. Since they are tall plants, grow them where there is wind protection, otherwise staking may be necessary. I would rather not see them staked so I will site them carefully.
Protect from slugs.
Their roots are fragile so plant carefully and do not walk on the soil close by. Plant 8-10 inches deep and 24 inches apart.
Location: Oregon, Greater Portland Metro
Posted: Oct-04-2004 at 12:24pm
Nice list, Debbie. I like to plant regular old leeks for big, white globular flowers. They provide some height yet don't hog the sunshine for the veggies. I planted some foxtails lilies a couple of years ago. Very pretty. They came back for a second year but did not see them this year. Maybe they did not get enough sunshine or the winter rains got them.
Location: Oregon, Willamette Valley
Posted: Oct-06-2004 at 10:43am
I have an allium schubertii ( sp?) which bloomed for 3 or 4 years, continues to produced the strap like leaves, but has not produced a bloom now for 3 years. Is it a gonner? or am I neglecting to give it the right food? I make sure the center and surrounding area is well slug baited. Any advice?
Location: Washington, Puget Sound Corridor
Posted: Oct-06-2004 at 8:28pm
I have been planting bulbs for the last 2 or 3 weeks. Just went out this evening to plant 15 Hyacinths and 25 Pickwick Crocus. DH helped, so we only got the Hyacinths planted; sometimes, having help isn't much help. We ended up planting bulbs in the dark, by feel, mostly. Every so often, one of us would walk past the front porch to set off the motion detector on the porch light so that we could have a little bit of light.
I planted the Hyacinths in the bed where I'd had Crocus and Daffodil bulbs before, and where many of them got dug up by broken water pipe repairs and yard renovations. Some of the Daff bulbs were goners--soft and mushy. But I found 3 that were nice and firm, so I replanted those. I have no idea what they are--I hope they are "Actaea". Many of the Crocus we dug up had little tiny sprouts, and thousands of root hairs. Some, that must have survived from last year, had divided into 2 or even 3 bulbs.
It is really tempting to sacrifice a bulb, to see the structure inside. That would be fascinating!
Location: Willamette Valley
Posted: Oct-07-2004 at 9:41am
I have three buckets full of mixed bulbs...I recognize some as daffs, tulips, etc. but have no idea what is going to pop up from the rest of them. These are bulbs I rescued as the retaining walls went in and others that I accidentally dug up here and there as I was making new beds and planting into a few existing ones.
It appears that I'll have quite a hodge-podge of bulbs blooming when I get home in the spring. I'll try to group tulips together and daffs together and so forth, but will still be quite a confetti mix of colors and forms. Or, I suppose I could row them out and use them for cutting, then label any to be moved next year.
Location: Washington, Western
Posted: Oct-08-2004 at 7:25pm
I am going to plant some bulbs this fall but no idea what yet. I did want to comment on the foxtail lily though, a neighbor has a huge batch of them. They look like they have been there at least 10 years. They are about 2 feet wide and at least 5 feet long and they are not taken care of and are planted on the edge of a slope. They flower heavily also.
Location: Oregon coast
Posted: Oct-12-2004 at 2:27pm
I like to have a few bulbs in pots, especially fragrant, showy ones like hyacinths. I keep them on the side of the house, out of the way, then when they start to bloom I put them on the front porch. Then I move them back to my "utility" area when their blooms are spent.
Don't forget daylilies make nice companion plants for bulbs such as daffodils. As the daffies start looking ratty, the daylilies start filling in with their fresh foliage.
There used to be daffodil farms on the Clatsop Plains, between Astoria and Seaside, in fact, a few people are trying to revive them. They put up little stands along the road, with bunches of daffodils for sale (or later in the summer, dahlias). It's a lot of joy for $1 or $2. The Clatsop Plains Presbyterian Church has their own daffodil fields, and every year as close to Easter as they can get, they harvest the daffodils and make a huge yellow daffodil cross on the lawn in front of the church. I have a digital photo of it, I should try to add it in.