Around the Garden
Put Aside Summer Chores and Think Spring
By Chris Cohan
The same old chores grind on and on. Days disappear under Sisyphean-like tasks of never-ending sameness. The dog always needs to be walked. Shopping needs to be done. Grass needs to be cut, recyclables dragged to curb, and bills paid. Then the car gas tank is on empty, again.
You need a project with a true beginning, middle, and end. Let’s talk spring-flowering bulbs. It’s that time of year to place your order. Now, not later, as the best varieties sell out.
Plant a variety of bulbs from narcissus, blue bells, and lilies. Even though tulips are nonpareil in the plant kingdom, I purposely avoided including them. Their charm, grace, and stature are undeniable, but after a few years they decline in vigor. And deer love them. However, if you have a protected area and are willing to replant, go ahead and plant some romantic and alluring tulips. While they are ever so fleeting, they are ever so intoxicating.
Bulbs planted now will fill the early spring garden with color and promise. Early bloomers are the genus narcissus, made up of daffodils. A broad group ranging from large cup, double, small cup, and poeticus. Then jonquils, split cup, and miniature narcissus to name some. Don’t let it confuse you. In the end, grab a catalogue. Whatever looks good, buy it.
They come in basically three categories — early-, middle-, and late-season blooming. Consider planting some of each to stretch out the bloom period. They are big bulbs which need to be planted three times their size deep. After planting many you may be thinking why did I do this? Next spring and many years to come you will be happy you did.
To simplify planting, dig bigger holes or trenches to handle a bunch of bulbs as opposed to individual holes. Also, over-dig the holes, throwing loose soil back in. Mix bone meal or a bulb fertilizer into the bottom loosened soil. Place the bulbs in, gently making sure not to grind the bases and damage the root potential.
Now onto bluebells. Previously classified as <Scilla,> they thrive in moist soil and enjoy sun to partial shade. They will multiply over time while being deer and rodent resistant. Bluebells have the added benefit of small sized bulbs; making them much easier to plant than daffodils. Also, much less expensive. They lend an enchanted forest-like affect to your grounds. Plant with reckless abandon. When in doubt double your order. You will thank me.
The two main varieties are <Hispanica> — the prized 17tth-century Spanish Bluebell that produces 15 to 20 pendant bell-shaped flowers on strong upright stems. Then Non-Scripta, circa 1580, commonly known as the English Bluebell. It is scented, darker blue in color than Spanish with flowers on one side causing it to weep. Oh, you shall weep as well with tears of joy when you see a drift of these beauties in bloom.
I especially like heirloom Turk’s Cap, of the Lilium species <Martagon>. It is native to various regions of the world including eastern North America. Her regal stature reaches heights of four to six feet festooned with dozens of blooms per season. Blooming from late July into August with bowed beautiful heads to gaze upon her subjects below. Most varieties have mottled specks of maroon on orange blossoms with black seeds growing above the leaf intersection. Foliage whorls around the plant, adding to the elegant appearance.
More than any other lily, the Turk’s Cap grows happily in a partially shaded or dappled sun location. Once established in average, sweet, and well-draining soil, it blooms often into late summer. A little lime mixed into the ground in winter usually makes it gentle enough to keep the Turk’s Cap happy. Somewhat slow to establish, blooms might not appear during the first growing season, but their abundance in following years is worth the wait. Also, equally content in a full sun spot.
The freckled orange blooms are the most common, but flowers also grow in white and burgundy shades. Plant them with shorter specimens, such as Asiatic lilies. They like their roots cool, so add lower growing plants in front and or mulch. Choose the location carefully when planting, as the Turk’s Cap does not like to be moved once established.
While those never-ending circular tasks and chores keep coming at you, turn away for a bit. Grab a bulb catalogue, order to your heart’s content. This fall embark on a satisfying project with closure. Once completed your reward will be years, decades, of an ever-expanding fragrant and beautiful vista.