Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
October, 2007
Regional Report

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Clumps of bulbs can be dug and transplanted as they resprout.

Buy Bulbs ASAP!

Hurry to buy the best-quality spring-blooming bulbs. Great choices 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, paperwhites, peonies, ranunculus, scilla, snowdrops, sparaxis, tigridia, tritonia, triteleia, tulips, dog's tooth violets, watsonias, and winter aconites.

Choose the biggest, plumpest bulbs you can find, as these have the most stored food and will produce the largest and most blooms over the longest period of time. They cost a bit more but they'll provide a great deal more pleasure when they bloom.

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, try chionodoxa, eranthis, muscari, ornithogalum, and puschkinia. These are good for naturalizing, and the ripening foliage following bloom won't interfere with mowing the lawn.

Don't forget to buy some bulbs just for indoor forcing to have color from Thanksgiving through January. Good choices include amaryllis, crocuses, freesias, lily-of-the-valley, paperwhites, and tulips.

Giving Bulbs the Cold Treatment
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, bags since the bulbs are alive and must breathe.

Be sure to keep them away from fruit, however, since the ethylene gas exuded by the ripening process will kill the bloom buds in the bulbs.

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, as it is easily washed from the soil by winter rains, and bulbs need a small but continuous supply all winter long for strong growth of the foliage and stems.

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. Depth of planting also affects when the bulbs will bloom: more shallow 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 -- the three tiny red stamens in each bloom -- for each cooking or baking recipe.

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