Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
September, 2010
Regional Report

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Seeds can be started in recycled 6-packs and plastic pots, with a tray below to catch irrigation water.

Bulbs For Holiday Forcing, and For Spring Bloom

Bulbs to plant for spring bloom can be purchased now for first-choice quality. 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 irises, ixias, leucojums, lycoris, montbretias, narcissus, paperwhites, peonies, ranunculus, scilla, snowdrops, sparaxis, tigridia, tritonia, triteleia, tulips, dogtooth violets, watsonias, and winter aconites. Choose big, plump bulbs, as these 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. Refrigerate hyacinths and tulips for six to eight weeks before planting them in November. 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 or other low-growing groundcover, these are good for naturalizing, and the ripening foliage following bloom won't interfere with mowing the lawn: Chionodoxa, Eranthis, Muscari, Ornithogalum, and Puschkinia.

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

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--bag, 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 briquettes 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 the flower stalk.

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: 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 several 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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