This is the seventh in a 10-week gardening column series, organized by the Niagara-on-the-Lake Communities in Bloom committee.
Special to The Lake Report/Niagara Now
In some centuries of their colourful history, bulbs have been used for flavouring and medicine, they’ve been emblazoned on royal banners, but mainly, they’re grown for their beauty.
Bulbs bring the first welcome burst of colour, signalling the end of winter.
To beginner gardeners, spring bulbs mean crocuses, daffodils and tulips, but there are more than a dozen other kinds of bulbs.
Although bulbs like full sun, they can be planted among deciduous trees that haven’t leafed out yet.
To extend bloom time, plant a single variety in different locations. The sunniest spots produce the earliest flowers, shade the latest.
Planting different varieties can yield blooms in the early, mid and late season.
For spring bulbs, the sooner you plant in the fall, the better. It’s much nicer to plant on a sunny September day than in chilly November. The more time the bulbs have to put out their roots before the ground freezes, the stronger they will be.
If your earth is heavy and largely clay, add one to two inches of coarse sand in the bottom of the bulb hole you dig to assure fast growth of the root system.
Soak thoroughly to wash the soil in around the bulbs, eliminate air spaces and start the bulbs rooting.
After the bulbs have finished, cut off the flower head and allow the leaves to yellow and wither before cutting back. This will build up energy for next year’s cycle.
Planting bulbs in groups of five or more will give you the most impressive impact.
Many bulbs – such as snowdrops, winter aconite (earliest yellow), scilla, dwarf irises, chionodoxas (glory of the snow), muscari (grape hyacinths), lily of the valley, anemones, leucojum (spring snowflake), daffodils, ranunculuses, fritillarias, ornithogalum (star of Bethlehem) – will naturalize or multiply over the years, creating larger clumps, making a good return on your initial investment.
The narcissus (daffodil family) have countless varieties and from the earliest to the latest will give eight weeks or more of continuous bloom.
Tulips can also have an extended bloom time by planting early, mid and late varieties.
Treat yourself to a fall teaser by planting autumn crocuses, especially the doubles that resemble water lilies.
Plant late August or early September and three weeks later they’ll be in bloom while the leaves are falling. Get to a garden centre early for the best selection. Happy planting!
Peggy Bell is a member of Niagara-on-the-Lake's Communities in Bloom committee.