2010-09-09 / News

What you do now affects the spring garden

The Island Garden
By Roger Marshall

This is the time of year when bare patches start to show up in your garden as flowering plants die back. It’s also the time of year when you should be thinking about your spring flower garden.

The first flowers to bloom in spring are Siberian squill, crocuses, anenomes and daffodils. This fall is the right time to plant them.

A great website – www.hort.cornell. edu/combos – tells you what combinations to plant together. It was created by plant experts from Cornell University, and began with certain goals in mind. Those goals are using bulbs that extend the blooming season, exploring how perennials can be used to mask the dying foliage of early blooms, considering leaf texture as a design element and examining the various roles that color plays in the garden.

The scientists evaluated many combinations, and came up with a list of 15 ideal combinations that fulfilled the stated goals best. There are other combinations, but these are the most interesting.

The experts combined hyacinth “Jan Bos” with Penstemon “Husker Red.” Jan Bos is a bright red hyacinth matched with a pinkish penstemon. That might make a great combination, but finding the right bulbs and plants entails going to other websites and tracking the necessary plants.

I found Penstemon Husker Red at around $8 per plant – or a packet of seeds for $2.50. Having said that, propagation of Penstemon is fairly easy by leaf cuttings, so you can rapidly expand your groupings. Hyacinth Jan Bos is available from Dutch bulbs and costs a few dollars for several bulbs.

One of the experts’ other choices, Tulip “Queen of the Night,” combined with sedum “matrona” is a very dark – the “blackest” – tulip available and costs approximately $20 for a few bulbs on one website. To find the pinkish Sedum or stonecrop “matrona,” you will need to go to another website and buy a single plant for approximately $8.

It will take some work to find the plants, but the combinations should be quite spectacular in your spring garden. Many of the bulbs are available from www.dutchbulbs.com, but you’ll likely need to search other websites for individual perennials.

Of course, you can also plant a pile of daffodils and naturalize parts of your garden. The best way to do this is to buy a large bag of daffodils and simply throw them out on the area to be naturalized. Plant the bulbs wherever they fall. Plant them root end down, about the thickness of the bulb below the soil level.

It’s a good idea to sprinkle a little all-purpose fertilizer in the hole when you put the bulbs down. If you want to go organic, use a little blood meal mixed with a little bone meal. If animals dig up your bulbs, put a layer of chicken wire over the growing area and cover it with mulch to hide the wire.

If you have areas where daffodils have grown for many years, it’s not a bad idea to dig them up now and thin the bulbs. Quite often a large clump of daffodils will stop flowering because the bulbs have absorbed all the nutrients from the area.

If you had non-flowering daffodils last year, dig the bulbs, add fertilizer to the hole and see what comes up next year.

Just remember, what you do in your garden right now will affect how it looks in the spring. You may not get it perfect, but if it is partially right, you can easily correct it when the bulbs start popping up.

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