When fall approaches, the nurseries start to offer bulbs for planting. Bulbs are one of the easiest ways to add early color to the landscape from late winter through early spring. Before you purchase bulbs, consider where you want to have the most impact. The following pointers are offered for helping you plan your plantings.
Usually during the end of winter, the weather is not optimal for outdoor activities. Therefore, early bulbs are best placed where they can be easily seen and enjoyed. Plant Crocus and Dwarf Iris next to the walkway that is used the most, or in pots next to the door. These bulbs are easy to plant, virtually “bulletproof” and require no special care.
Daffodils, Tulips and Hyacinths are the next to bloom. Daffodils are usually earlier than the others, but there are several varieties of early blooming tulips. Plant these bulbs amongst your other perennials so that after blooming, when the leaves are starting to look bad, the perennials will have grown enough to cover them. Other planting locations include pots that can be moved or replanted, specific planting beds dedicated to spring color, or under large deciduous trees or shrubs that would shade out sun loving plants in the summer when they fully leaved.
A word of caution though for planning where to put your Tulips. Tulips do not like a lot of summer watering, so, do not plant them with other plants that will require a great deal of water. If you choose to plant them amongst your thirsty Roses for example, you will probably need to dig them up when the leaves are turning, or replant new bulbs in the fall.
Any Bulb that you choose to plant should be planted in groupings of at least five. The more you plant, the better the show. Savvy planters have known forever that massings of bulbs is a great way to make a springtime statement. Think about those Skagit Valley display gardens!!!
Moles are often considered the culprit for eating bulbs. This is not entirely true. Moles are carnivorous animals, but the tunnels they dig are highways for other animals that do eat bulbs. Squirrels however are bulb connoisseurs. You can either consider this as one of the aspects of nature to live with or you can try to prevent the animal damage. When you plant your bulbs you can lay down a tight wire mesh (1/4″ – 1/2″ square) approximately 3″ below the depth of the bulbs, or simply place the bulbs in large shallow pots and bury the pots just below the soil level. Be sure there is ample drainage to avoid rot.
Skagit county is one of the best resources for bulbs in this area. The bulbs are locally grown and adapted to the northwest climate. Visit the Tulip Festival web site at www.tulipfestival.com to find links and information about the main growers. You can order directly on-line or receive a catalog to browse through.