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Archive for the ‘Bulbs’ Category

IMG_6256Daffodils are wonderful when they first pop up out of the ground.  They are among the first flowers to appear in our gardens and they are SO welcome!

IMG_6131When we get to about now…the flowers start drying up; dropping off; and beginning to form seeds.  They are not so pretty any longer!  So, now what do we do?

If you had a meadow’s worth, I’d suggest just leaving them, but we don’t have meadows of daffodils.  Ours definitely do not look grand among the other flowers that are coming into their own now.

So get out those pruners.  Cut each flower stem down as close to the ground as you can.  Don’t leave any unsightly ‘sticks of stems’ poking up.  They are not at all attractive.  BUT  DO NOT CUT OFF THE LEAVES!

The bulbs that you planted need those leaves to generate food for themselves.  They collect sun rays and fresh air. I’m sure you know the leaves are doing this.  You also have to understand that those bulbs are drawing nutrients from the soil, so this is a wonderful time to scratch a little fertilizer (or compost) into the soil around those leaves.  The leaves should stay until they begin to turn brown.  If it bothers you to watch the leaves just sitting there, seemingly doing nothing, notice that some gardeners fold them over and tie them together.  There are even folks who braid the leaves.  It’s a bit “labor intensive”, but it does work.  The garden looks a whole lot neater, and the bulbs continue to get their nutrition!  (This same technique works with other bulbs like tulips and hyacinths.)

Some people figure they’ll let seeds grow and plant them.  Don’t bother!  The seed will suck the life out of the bulb, and it will be years before you get a flower worth your attention.  You will be better off to be rid of the seed (what becomes of the dying flower) and nurture the bulb you have for an even more glorious flower next year, and years following.

When you are done, the spent flowers and stems can be dumped into the compost bins.  It couldn’t be easier!

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Last week the Garden Committee here at Horizon House had a “field trip” to IMG_6235Swanson’s Nursery to fulfill our GEM Grant.  The gardeners were awarded a bit of “flower candy” as I call it, for the inconvenience they suffered during the renovations to our West Wing.  IMG_6230Not everyone was able to go, but those who did had a good time browsing, buying, eating and

learning.

The Horizon House bus was packed to the gills with plant material.

Not all of it was able to be in the back, so was to be found all over the bus, along with some happy gardeners!

Once we got home, the staff helped us by putting plant materials on the proper decks IMG_6246for the gardeners to plant.

What followed was the planting itself.  Talk about busy bees…  The gardens are now getting full and attractive.  IMG_6249Here’s one I planted.  Now I’ll stand back and watch the magic!

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Oh, yes!  There is hope and renewal in the garden…everyone’s garden.  I took these pictures of our gardens just this week.  Go and look for yourselves!

Some things never died back.

img_6014 Some things are budding and preparing to burst forth.img_6015img_6017

Branches are forming.

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I noticed one of the roses (in fact the one pictured) has a plastic label around the stem.  It is too tight.  It has obviously been on there for a few years.  It’s time to cut it off.  Remember, even plastic will strangle a plant.  Cut those labels off as soon as you notice they are getting a bit tight.  But, goodness, look at those new stems just itching to get longer!!

Bulbs are pushing up toward the sun.img_6021

Have you begun checking out the gardening catalogues yet?  They are full of colorful ideas.  You don’t have to buy anything…just enjoy making plans!

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daffodils-1399483I have gotten so many questions lately from our gardeners about their bulbs.  They are coming up and it’s only the beginning of November!

I am a little unfamiliar with  this problem.  In New England (my recent, and longtime home) this isn’t a problem.  If the bulbs begin to show green, they are soon nipped by frost and go back to bed like good little bulbs.  But, here in the Pacific Northwest, it appears this is a real issue!

I have checked everywhere for more information on this problem and have not been able to find specific suggestions on how to handle it.  But, let me “soldier on”.

Bulbs will begin to sprout when they have had enough time, darkness and moisture to produce good root growth.  When it gets warm the bulb thinks it’s spring.  How does figure that out?  It’s under the surface of the ground, and can only react to what nature is telling it…and right now, it’s being told it’s warm enough to send up some shoots.  The bulb thinks it must be spring!  But it’s NOT spring, and we gardeners are puzzled.  We have every right to be puzzled.  Just remember the bulb is not puzzled, it’s just doing what it’s supposed to be doing.  Or so it thinks!

In all my research, I think I’ve come up with enough information to suggest why this may be happening.

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-8-26-56-amLike so many problems, we often have to back-track to the beginning.  Bulbs need to be planted at least 3 times their depth.  That means a dry bulb that measures 2 (two) inches from root to tip, should be planted 6 (six) inches in the ground!  That’s pretty deep.  Take it seriously!

Here at Horizon House, we garden in large beds.  Those beds are actually large containers.  I wonder if our bulbs think we are forcing them?  In that scenario, bulbs are planted in a much more shallow manner, and come up pretty quickly once they sense it’s warm!  If that is the case, it would say to me that we need to be ever vigilant to plant our bulbs deeply, so they don’t get an early wake-up call.

Right now, we’ve got early shoots appearing…what do we do?  There is not much you can do, unfortunately.  If you cover them, they will just continue to reach for the sun.  They will become leggy and vulnerable.  I would just leave them.  In nature this would happen as well.  The bulbs won’t die.  They might not flower particularly well come spring, but the following year they should be fine.

Remember to let the foliage die down naturally come “post-blooming” time.  The bulbs themselves need the nutrition that comes from the leaves.  You might also give them a “shot” of fertilizer at that time.

37350208-old-garden-scoop-on-root-and-soil-of-flowers-top-viewA further suggestion might be that in the spring when you’re so happy to be out in the garden and are digging, if you run across any shallow bulbs, get them down deeper.  If you buy new bulbs, plant them DEEP!  In our beds, it’s easy to not go deep enough.

I don’t know if this has helped your quandary at all, but at least it has given us all something to think about.  As we garden, we learn.  Sometimes we just have to stand back and let nature “do it’s thing”.  I also feel it’s telling us that global warming is even affecting our bulbs!

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I can’t tell you how many questions I’ve had over the last week about bulbs.  The most prevalent one is, “When can I plant my bulbs?”.  The next is, “If I can’t plant them yet, how do I store them?” 100_0120

Maybe we should start by defining a “bulb”.  The University of Illinois Extension Service defines it this way:  “The definition of a bulb is any plant that stores its complete life cycle in an underground storage structure.”  I have made the link above, because it defines and explains a “bulb” pretty thoroughly!

For our purposes here today, I will only discuss a “true” bulb, like a tulip, daffodil, crocus, etc.  Rhizomes, corms and tubers are also considered “bulbs”, but we will not discuss them today.

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-8-26-56-amHere is a drawing of a true bulb that I have taken from that University of Illinois Extension Service web site.  It’s a good description of what we are talking about.  The definition of “tunicate” bulb is one that has a paper like sheath that helps protect it.

As you can see, the leaves, the flower bud, the roots, and even the babies (lateral bulblets) are all there…right in that one structure, as noted in the definition!

It also does a good job of showing you what’s up and what’s down!  The pointy end is the top and the flat end is the bottom.  It isn’t always that the roots are visible yet, but have no fear, they will appear!

Miraculously, if you should happen to plant the bulb upside down, given a few years, it will actually right itself.  That’s hard work, so try to avoid doing that to your bulbs.  You want it’s energy to go into the blooms!!!

When you buy bulbs, you want to look for ones without deep cuts in the tunic.  Those cuts would indicate some pretty severe injury that might impact the growth of the bulb.  It might even produce rot, meaning that your bulb wouldn’t survive in the ground.  Look for a healthy bulb…think of an onion in the grocery store.  I’m sure, like me, you look for onions without soft spots, discoloration and scars.  Do the same with the purchase of bulbs.

Usually nurseries don’t offer bulbs for sale until it’s time for planting, so get them in the ground as soon after you purchase them as possible.  If that’s not possible, store them in the package in which they arrived, or in a paper bag (that breathes), in a cool, dry environment.  Something to remember here is that squirrels, rats, and mice LOVE chomping on bulbs (except for daffodils which they seem to  dislike).  If you “mail order” bulbs, they will always arrive at the proper planting time.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, autumn is warmer than in many areas of the country.  That kind of confuses the element of the timing of planting bulbs.  Where there’s a hard frost, it’s easy, bulbs can be planted right up until you can’t get a shovel into the ground because it’s too hard to dig!  So, how do we handle that here in the PNW?

Remember that when the bulbs go into the ground, they need to establish some growth of those roots.  They need some warmth for that…BUT, you don’t want to plant them when it’s so warm that the leaves will sprout.  Then they may try to bloom in the fall and come spring, when you want to see them…they will already have done their thing.  Sorry, no bloom!  So, your timing should be to plant before threat of a hard frost (when temperatures drop into the 20’s and stay there for a couple of hours), but after any hot weather, which might encourage a growth spurt.  For us, here at Horizon House in downtown Seattle, Washington, that would be about now.  You can hold off a bit if you’d like, but when you’ve got an hour or two free, any time now will be OK.

I think I’ve answered the most pressing questions about bulbs.

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