Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
February, 2010
Regional Report

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This precocious lily is a welcome sight in my February garden!

Patiently Waiting for Spring

I'm generally a very patient person, but sometimes waiting for spring is just more than I can handle. I know it's right around the corner, so I tour the garden on a daily basis, hoping to find a single swollen bud or newly emerging crocus -- some sign that the garden is springing back to life. Imagine my surprise to round a corner and find a stargazer lily in full bloom in the middle of February. Life is good!

Lilies are summer bloomers so this one is quite an exception to the rule. I remember that it was a gift, probably potted and grown in a greenhouse prior to being given to me, and I suppose I stuck it in the ground with hopes of nurturing it back to health. The winter wasn't especially mild but the site is protected, and the lily seems to have retained her slightly-out-of-sync internal clock. She may revert to a more normal bloom time as she matures, but in the meantime I'm loving her display!

Traditional Spring Bloomers
In my garden, the usual sequence of spring bloom begins with grape hyacinth and crocus, then narcissus and tulips. As they come into bloom, I apply a top dressing of 5-10-5 fertilizer to give the bulbs a boost. A high-phosphorus, low-nitrogen fertilizer helps them develop a strong bulb. As the flowers fade, cut the flowering stem down to the base of the foliage, but allow the foliage to yellow and die down on its own. The leaves are necessary to rejuvenate the bulbs for next year's flower show.

Divide and Conquer
I tend to encourage the bulbs in my yard to naturalize, but after 4 or 5 years they become overcrowded. I know it's time to divide when blooms are less than spectacular or I find more foliage than flowers in the bed. I wait until early fall and renovate the planting, carefully removing all the bulbs, working some compost into the bed, and then replanting, spacing the bulbs about 4 inches apart. Then I sit back and enjoy, knowing they'll perform well for another 4 or 5 years!

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