Gardening Tips and Techniques:Bulbs Categories
Generally, bulbs are divided into two categories:
A) The autumn planting types, which are typically flowering in spring ie Daffodils, Tulips, Crocus, Hyacinths, Bluebells etc
B) The spring planting types which are typically flowering in summer ie Dahlias, Begonias, Gladiolus
Lilies (Asiatics, Orientals, tigers) are an exception to this rule; they can be planted in either spring or autumn for summer blooms.
When is the best time to plant bulbs?
Bulbs are usually sold dry. Dry bulbs should be planted as soon as possible after purchase. Daffodils should be planted in late August, September or October and tulips between September, October and early November.
Some bulbs such as dwarf iris and cyclamen, are often sold in pots. Pot-grown plants can be planted at any time of the year provided the ground is not waterlogged or frozen.
Others bulbs such as snowdrops are often sold after flowering �in the green�. Summer flowering bulbs and bulbs �in the green� should be planted in mid to late spring.
Specially prepared bulbs of hyacinths and daffodils for early flowering indoors should be planted in late summer or early winter and kept in a cool, frost free place for a minimum period of 10 weeks.
Where is the best place to plant bulbs?
Bulbs provide a great variety of different colour, size and shape of flowers and they can be used in practically every garden situation, except deep shade.
The tall grandeur and symmetry of hybrid tulips make them ideal for formal bedding schemes, either planted on their own or mixed with other spring flowering bedding plants.
The informality of daffodils with their nodding heads and bright primary colours are excellent for naturalising in grass and also for enlivening dull corners of the garden.
As bulbs provide intense colour with little effort, they are often used for filling up gaps in more permanent plantings such as herbaceous and shrub borders.
Dwarf daffodils, crocus and other bulbs with tiny flowers are suitable subjects for rock gardens and also for growing in containers and window boxes. Some bulbs such as hyacinths and daffodils can be forced into flower early and can be cultivated indoors.
How do I plant bulbs?
Preparation: Dig over the general area you are planting in beforehand to remove competitive weeds and allow the air content of the soil to rise, which will aid the entry of water.
Water logging: Most bulbs hate water logging for any lengthy period therefore try and avoid such areas unless the bulbs are suited to it,
Tools: Bulbs can be planted with a trowel or with a specialised bulb planter.
Planting Depth & Spacing: As a guide, the planting depth of soil over the bulb, for most bulbs, is two to three times the height of the bulb itself. A small bulb only 1" high should go down 2-3" deep. Tuberous begonias should be planted shallowly with the top of the tuber just below the soil surface.
Planting distance between bulbs can vary greatly but two to three times the width of the bulb would be satisfactory in many cases.
Positioning of bulb: Bulbs should be inserted in the hole with the pointed end facing upwards and tubers should have any buds or eyes facing upwards. After covering with soil, the surface should be firmed and watered. Where bulbs are being naturalised in grass, the sward should be cut as short as possible and the bulbs scattered by hand over the selected area. The bulbs should be planted where they fall but not closer than one bulb�s width apart.
Labelling: Do label your planting so that when the bulbs flower you will know what they are, but equally when they go dormant you will remember not to dig them up as you garden over them.
What is bulb layering?
Layering is the perfect way to maximise the flowering potential of a small garden, by planting different varieties of bulbs at different levels within a small pot or area in the garden.
What �layers� of bulbs work best together?
There are basically four main "layers" of bulbs that work particularly well for this method of planting: Lillium (including the Asiatics, Trumpets and Orientals), Narcissi and Allium, Tulips, Muscari, Scilla, Iris reticulata, Crocus (the smallest, earliest blooming bulbs).
Any layer can be left out and the scheme still works quite well. Larger areas can also be planted using this method of layering types of bulbs. Within a layer you can vary the bulbs, putting 2-3 Asiatic lilies with a couple of Oriental ones, thus extending the final blooming time. Early and late blooming tulips also work well this way. It is recommended that you choose one type of early bloomer and one late one, rather than mixing too many variations.
How do I layer bulbs?
Step 1 Dig a deep hole at least 12" but 14" is better and about 16-18" wide. This can, of course, vary according to the space you are trying to fill. Think of it as an "infill project" much like architects design in existing residential areas where there is a vacant lot.
Step 2 Remove the soil and mix it with a good quantity of compost (a shovelful or two) and a couple handfuls of a bulb booster. Set soil mixture aside.
Step 3 In the bottom of the hole, place about 2-3" of course sand. This will provide good drainage for the bulbs.
Step 4 Next fill in about 2-3" of the soil mixture.
Step 5 Now you can start to plant. Lilies go in the deepest. You might fit 4-6 or even more in the hole, depending on their size and that of the hole. They bloom last, from late June for the Asiatics, July for the Trumpets to August for the Orientals (depending on your location and summer conditions). Cover with about 2" of good soil mix.
Step 6 Next plant daffodils and alliums. Basically you try to fit them in around the bulbs below but don't worry too much as they will find their way to the surface around other bulbs planted above them. Again cover with 2" of good soil.
Step 7-9 Continue with tulips and soil and finally the smallest bulbs that are also the earliest blooming, the Iris reticulata, crocus, etc. Finally cover with the last of the soil for about 2 more inches above the last bulbs.
After the blooms have faded, be sure to let the foliage die back on its own as this is how bulbs replenish themselves for next year's flowers.
For more information on Tips and Techniques contact Beechill Bulbs