Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
October, 2008
Regional Report

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Planting spring-blooming bulbs at the base of deciduous trees provides color before trees leaf out.

Flower Bulbs -- Some In, Some Out

Don't wait much longer to purchase spring-blooming bulbs. This is one time when cheap prices and bottom-of-the-barrel leftovers are a waste of money rather than a bargain. If you can't buy the best, large-size bulbs shortly after they become available, wait until next year.

Separate and replant crowded clumps of spring-blooming bulbs. Many will grow well beneath deciduous trees, as most of the bulb growth is in the early spring before the trees leaf out.

Dig summer-flowering bulbs such as tuberous begonias, caladiums, cannas, dahlias, gladioli, and tuberoses after their foliage has died back or as soon as it is killed by frost. Gently clean the soil from the corms and tubers. Don't wash them or force the tops off -- they'll shrivel slightly and separate when they're ready. Either replant where they'll get good winter drainage, or store them in fine, dry peat, sawdust, sand, or vermiculite at temperatures not lower than 60 degrees with low humidity, in preparation for replanting next spring.

For a cover crop of flowers before, during, and after spring bulb bloom, sow seeds or plant seedlings of low-growing annual bloomers after you've planted the bulbs. Think of color contrasts such as purple pansies with yellow daffodils or white alyssum with red tulips. Good choices include calendulas, pansies, Iceland poppies, primroses, dwarf snapdragons, dwarf stock, and violas. Sow seed thickly, water, and mulch lightly. Keep the area moist until seedlings have two sets of true leaves. Transplant thickly-germinated groupings so each plant will have its own 12-inch by 12-inch area to thrive.

Perennials will camouflage dying-back spring bulb foliage. Now's the time to divide and replant overgrown clumps, including bergenia, bleeding hearts (dicentra), calendulas, evergreen candytuft, columbine, coralbells (huechera), coreopsis, michaelmas and Shasta daisies, daylilies, delphiniums, dianthus (carnation, pinks, sweet William), dusty miller, foxgloves, heliopsis, helleborus (Christmas rose, Lenten rose), hollyhocks, bearded irises, peonies, phlox, Oriental poppies, primroses, rudbeckias (gloriosa daisy, black-eyed-Susan), echinacea (coneflower), statice, stock, stokesia, veronica, and yarrow.

Use a spade or sharp knife to separate the large clumps, or gently pull apart individual plants after loosening the clump from its surrounding soil. Discard the old, unproductive sections. Trim the foliage of young growth to 4 to 6 inches. Dig in compost, replant, and water in well.

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