By Candy Venning
Hello there, remember last spring how every time you saw a crocus or snowdrop you smiled and then…wondered why you don’t have any in your yard? Yup! Time to think about spring bulbs – and if you didn’t order in advance from @flowerbulbsRus or a similar mail order company, don’t take your chances at a hardware, dollar store or other non nursery place. I believe inferior bulbs, low quality or improperly stored (or even, GASP ! last years’ unsold stock) that don’t grow, is one of several reasons (boring choices too!) that folks don’t plant more spring joy. Squirrels get a lot of the blame for missing bulbs but there are multiple factors – here’s my “do’s and don’ts!”
1) More than just tulips. Tulips are the preferred food of squirrels and deer, they can look fussy or weird with informal gardens, so, go for Daffodils (which come in loads of sizes and colours and unlike tulips, tend to multiply vs fading out. Mingle in some Muscari; they work well for formal gardens as they can be planted along the edges of boxwoods or yews and add a bright blue ‘highlight’ along the edge. Covet some Crocus; short lived but what joyful colour mixes and bees like them too. Include Eranthis for earliest colourful flowers resembling short necked buttercups (another pollinator fave, quite shade tolerant) Fritillaria imperialis if you want a big bold showstopper, combine it with huge Alliums for a ‘wowsa’ effect that will have folks ‘selfie-ing’ themselves shamelessly across your yard.
2) Plant deep or don’t bother – we stopped using hand trowels about 15 years ago, instead we plant, divide and winkle out weeds while we’re at it, with a Hori Hori knife – available in multiple prices and qualities – an absolutely essential tool for medium to small bulbs. For bigger bulbs like huge daffs, Alliums, and Fritillaria get a small transplant shovel and it’s a 2-person job – one on the shovel digging deep to prise open a pocket and the other on the ground shoving that fat bulb down behind the levered soil in the slice/pocket (we don’t dig out or turn over the soil – more like a levered slice and then don’t forget to tread that hole/slice/pocket closed again)
3) Cover your tracks to foil opportunistic squirrels by watering & stomping the soil down – frost and thaw will fluff the soil again by spring unless you have solid clay and then perhaps skip bulbs planting altogether (sorry but bulbs hate clay).
4) Plant at the right time – this part is tricky – we often get a push of hot weather through September and early October with a drought, then we get cool weather and a few deluges – prepare to go out after a solid rain when it’s cooler out – the soil is softer even though you may get muddy, be ready to embrace that situation – set yourself up with a good audiobook, a thermos full of tea, or scotch (I won’t tell) and a couple of pairs of gloves, ideally a helper for the larger bulb planting method as mentioned above (cardboard can be handy to kneel on to prevent wet knees)
5) Plant more, more, still more, nope that’s still not enough…moooore! We have planted 100’s of thousands of bulbs and we always go big the first year – we plant as many as we can, especially in newer planting beds (soft soil) – those new perennials will get bigger too, roots will entwine with the bulbs preventing them from being dug up by humans or squirrels.