Plant­ing spring flow­er­ing bulbs

Fingal Independent - - LIFESTYLE - AN­DREW COLLYER’S

The nurs­eries and gar­den cen­tres up and down the coun­try are now all well stocked with Spring flow­er­ing bulbs, those bul­bous harbingers of spring which prom­ise length­en­ing spring days to come.

In fact bulbs have been in the gar­den cen­tres since the end of Au­gust but this is re­ally too early to even be con­sid­er­ing plant­ing them in our Ir­ish gardens which are still in their flow­ery sum­mer pomp then. But with Oc­to­ber’s dawn things are a lit­tle more ragged look­ing and the thought of pulling up bed­ding plants is much more agree­able and the thought of spring bulb plant­ing much more re­al­is­tic.

The main prob­lem, or more of a nui­sance re­ally, with bulbs is that af­ter they flower you have to leave the fo­liage in­tact to the bulb un­til it at least yel­lows be­fore cut­ting back. This is to al­low the bulb time to re­store en­gery for next years flow­er­ing.

Luck­ily bulbs are ephemeral mean­ing they have a short life cy­cle but it can still be six to eight weeks af­ter the flow­ers have gone be­fore the fo­liage can be re­moved. With early flow­er­ing small bulbs like snow­drops, cro­cus and some early dwarf daf­fodils this is not too much of an is­sue be­cause they leaf and there­fore die off early but also be­cause their fo­liage is small to and is there­fore not overly con­spic­u­ous . Other larger later bulbs like big daf­fodils, tulips and blue­bells have much big­ger fo­liage that can per­sist well into June and be­come a fright­ful mess and block up plant­ing ar­eas you have ear­marked for sum­mer bed­ding.

There are a few ways to deal with this. Firstly you might con­sider grow­ing bulbs in pots and con­tain­ers that can be ei­ther left on pa­tios or when in flower po­si­tioned in flower beds amongst other per­ma­nent plants. The beauty with both ways is that once the bulbs are past flow­er­ing the pots can be moved and placed some­where less ob­tru­sive and the fo­liage be left to wither in its own time. Th­ese bulbs can then ei­ther be lifted, stored and re­pot­ted the fol­low­ing Oc­to­ber or left in the pots for next year. I wouldn’t rec­om­mend any more than two years in a pot with­out lift­ing and re­fresh­ing the com­post though.

An­other op­tion is to treat your bulbs like an­nu­als and lift and dis­card them once the flow­ers have gone re­plant­ing a fresh the next year. This is a lit­tle prof­li­gate but might be a good op­tion for a very small gar­den. A vari­a­tion on this op­tion is to lift the bulbs im­me­di­ately af­ter flow­er­ing and pot up or re­plant else­where in the gar­den, pos­si­bly the edge of a veg­etable plot. Th­ese bulbs can then be lifted and stored for re­plant­ing the fol­low­ing year af­ter their fo­liage has with­ered. This method may have an im­pact on the flow­er­ing abil­ity in the sub­se­quent year but is a vi­able op­tion. Tulips are gen­er­ally lifted an­nu­ally any­way af­ter the fo­liage is spent.

Ty­ing up the bulb fo­liage into bun­dles has been one method of solv­ing the untidy fo­liage prob­lem for years. This in­volves ba­si­cally bunch­ing the leaves to­gether bend­ing them over into a bob and se­cur­ing them with elas­tic bands or ty­ing string. By do­ing this you are lim­it­ing the amount leaf ex­posed to the sun and there­fore lim­it­ing the amount of stor­age fuel the plant can pro­duce for next years flow­ers. Its an op­tion and quite pop­u­lar but be aware that it may im­pact next years flow­ers.

Plant­ing your bulbs in a site amongst other plants that will help hide or dis­guise the untidy fo­liage is an­other op­tion. Early flow­er­ing herba­ceous plants like Di­cen­tra and or grasses fo­liaged flow­ers like He­me­ro­cal­lis are good op­tions. Plant­ing in grass is also worth con­sid­er­a­tion with some bulbs. Daf­fodils, cro­cus, snow­drops, blue­bells and Ca­mas­sia are all suit­able. While you still have to al­low the fo­liage to go through its life cy­cle it can be less not­i­ca­ble in long grass. Once the bulb fo­liage is spent and the grass cut back it will green up again at that time of year within a cou­ple of weeks. Al­ter­na­tively plant where you can leave the long grass as a na­ture re­serve and cut back in Septem­ber.

Colchicum au­tum­nale

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