Thursday, 01 October 2020 14:35
By Peter Bowden | Home & Garden

Nothing cheers us up in spring more than the appearance of the first flowers from the bulbs we plant in fall. 

Think of these small bulbs as rechargeable batteries. They don’t store electricity but “growth energy.” 

Daffodils, tulips and all the Dutch bulbs offered for sale in the fall must be planted before winter. These bulbs need eight weeks of chilling to stimulate them into their next flowering cycle. Chilling in the ground over winter causes an enzyme change within the bulb. Without that chill, the bulb won’t be ready to grow in spring. Timing is everything. 

It’s always best to seek out the highest quality bulbs. When you buy bulbs, they’re all “charged up” for you by the producer in Holland. The Dutch have been producing flower bulbs since the 1500’s so they have a wealth of experience. When given a choice, choose the largest bulbs you can find. A bigger bulb is closer to becoming two bulbs, so there is an advantage to being picky.

On each package you’ll see bloom times listed as “early spring, mid spring, late spring, and early summer.” 

The next bit of information you’ll need is flower height.  This will help you avoid putting taller plants in front of shorter ones that bloom at the same time.  Height information is also handy when mixing bulbs into established perennial flowerbeds. 

The rule of thumb for planting bulbs is to dig the hole two to three times as deep as the bulb is tall.  Don’t be too fussy though since bulbs will actually reposition themselves at the proper depth as they grow over time.

Bulbs are most impressive when mass planted.  I consider five bulbs to be a minimum group.  Larger groups are even more impressive. Roots start growing right away, and they’ll gain a little extra energy for the spring flowering cycle.  Those roots will help anchor the bulbs in the soil so winter frost won’t heave them upward.

That’s it…pretty simple really. If you take time this fall to plant bulbs, you’ll thank yourself when they emerge after a long winter to announce the arrival of spring. All the beautiful flowers I grow in summer can’t give me the same thrill I get when I discover the first snowdrop or crocus emerging as the last of the winter’s snow retreats from the gardens.


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