Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
October, 2000
Regional Report

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Ahh, the smell of freesias is a certain sign of spring. Plant these bulbs now for spring blooms.

Everyone Plant Your Bulbs

Don't wait! Get out, buy, and plant those spring-blooming bulbs now. First-choice quality bulbs won't be plentiful much longer, so hurry. Even though we don't have the dull skies and snow-covered winters other parts of the country do, fall bulb planting ensures that our spring will be as brilliantly colored and fragrant as any region in the country.

So Many Bulbs

There are so many kinds of bulbs to choose from - it's a veritable alphabet! Allium, amaryllis, anemone, brodiaea, crocus, daffodil, freesia (so fragrant), fritillaria, galanthus, baby gladiolus, glory-of-the-snow, grape and Dutch and wood hyacinth, Dutch iris, ixia, leucojum, lycoris, montbretia, narcissus, paperwhite, ranunculus, scilla, snowdrop, sparaxis, tigridia, triteleia, tritonia, tulip (but count on them as annuals only), dogtooth violet, watsonia, and winter aconite. Whew, what a list.

Bulbs for Fragrance and Naturalizing

Freesias are god's gifts to the bulbworld. I love the fragrance of these bulbs, and they make great cut flowers. Especially fragrant freesia cultivars include 'Athene', 'Allure', 'Demeter', 'Excelsior', 'Golden Wave', 'Mirabel', 'Pink Westlind', 'Snowdon', and 'Welkin'.

If you like having blooms in the lawn, many smaller bulbs naturalize easily in the landscape. Once planted, they require little annual care. Chionodoxa, eranthis, muscari, ornithogalum, and puschkinia are good for naturalizing, and the foliage following bloom blends in nicely with the lawn.

Indoor Bulbs

While you're busy buying and planting bulbs for outdoors, don't forget to buy some bulbs for indoor forcing for color from Thanksgiving through January. Some easy-to-grow indoor bulbs include amaryllis, crocus, freesia, lily-of-the-valley, paperwhite, and tulip.

For the best indoor blooms, choose big, plump bulbs, as 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.

Planting Procedures

Some bulbs, such as tulips, may need prechilling before they can be planted. Refrigerate crocus, hyacinth, and tulip bulbs for 6 to 8 weeks before planting them in November or December. Store them in a paper bag on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator - at about 40F - for at least 6 weeks. The bag must be paper, because 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. Add a fertilizer with some nitrogen, as it's easily washed from the soil by winter rains, and bulbs need a small but continuous supply all winter long for strong growth.

Bulb Timing

To lengthen the bloom period, plant a few bulbs every few weeks. The 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, plant bulbs every few weeks and vary the planting depths each time you plant. However, keep planting depths within the range of 1 to 2 times the diameter of the bulb. Bulbs planted too deeply or too shallowly may not grow and bloom well.

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