Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
September, 2004
Regional Report

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The base of a deciduous trees is an ideal place to plant spring-blooming bulbs.

Bulb Planting Time!

It's time to buy spring-blooming bulbs to get the best choices. These include alliums, amaryllis, anemones, brodiaeas, crocuses, daffodils, freesias (so fragrant!), fritillarias, galanthus, baby glads, glory-of-the-snows, grape and Dutch and wood hyacinths, Dutch iris, ixias, leucojums, lycoris, montbretias, narcissus, paper whites, peonies, ranunculus, scilla, snowdrops, sparaxis, tigridia, tritonia, triteleia, tulips, dogtooth violets, watsonias, and winter aconites.

Bigger Bulbs, Bigger Blooms
Choose big, plump bulbs because they have the most stored food and will produce the largest and most numerous blooms over the longest period of time. They cost a bit more but they'll provide a great deal more pleasure when they bloom. You also might want to choose the most fragrant varieties. For example, freesia varieties that are especially fragrant include 'Athene', 'Allure', 'Demeter', 'Excelsior', 'Golden Wave', 'Mirabel', 'Pink Westlind', 'Snowdon', and 'Welkin'.

If you like having blooms in the lawn, plant small bulbs that naturalize easily and have foliage that won't interfere with mowing the lawn, such as chionodoxa, eranthis, muscari, ornithogalum, and puschkinia.

For a long-lasting spring display, plant some early, mid-season, and late-blooming bulbs every other week from October through mid-December, and again beginning in late January. Don't forget to buy some bulbs just for indoor forcing from Thanksgiving through January. Good choices include amaryllis, crocuses, freesias, lily-of-the-valley, paper whites, and tulips.

Preparing Bulbs and Soil
Store the bulbs in a cool, well-ventilated area until you're ready to plant them. Chill crocus, daffodil, hyacinth, narcissus, and tulip bulbs in a paper bag on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator at about 40 degrees for at least six weeks. Wrap them in paper -- not plastic -- since the bulbs are alive and must breathe.

Enrich the soil where the bulbs are to be planted with compost, bone meal, and granite dust or wood ashes (but not from charcoal briquets used in the barbecue, which contain harmful chemicals). Also add some nitrogen since it's easily washed from the soil by winter rains, and bulbs need a small but continuous supply all winter long for strong growth.

Depth of planting also affects when the bulbs will bloom: shallower plantings will bloom sooner, and deeper plantings will bloom later. If you want everything to bloom for one spectacular display, plant the bulbs at the same time and at the same depth. If you prefer color over several months' time, plant bulbs every few weeks, and vary the planting depths each time you plant.

Plant autumn-blooming saffron crocus now for a November harvest. Each corm produces from one to three flowers, and about six corms should provide sufficient saffron -- just the three tiny red stamens in each bloom -- for each cooking or baking recipe.

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