Daffodil

90213Even with all the unusual breeds of daffodil and related narcissus that are available nowadays, the traditional big yellow types that resemble the classic ‘King Alfred’ daffodil are probably still the most popular, even if real ‘King Alfred’ are unavailable. Although all narcissus are daffodils, the term ‘daffodil’ typically refers to those with fewer but bigger and bolder flowers that lack fragrance.

Their dormant bulbs got planted last autumn to wait out winter and then bloom along with the earliest of spring blooming bulbs. They can be planted in later phases to prolong bloom, but once they naturalize, will bloom annually and early on a rather reliable schedule. Most types are pleased to naturalize if conditions are right for them, although some of the fancier varieties are less reliable.

Besides the familiar bright yellow, daffodils can be pale yellow, cream, white, orange or pink, although orange and pink are mostly in conjunction with other colors. Some varieties bloom with double flowers, or other varied forms. Taller types can stand a foot and a half tall, with the flowers suspended just above the narrow, mostly vertical and somewhat rubbery bluish green leaves.

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Bulbs Are Not Finished Yet

90213thumbIt was easy to forget about spring bulbs after they went into the ground so unceremoniously last autumn. They got buried without so much as proper funerals. Cool season annuals got planted over the grave sites of some, just because bare soil is not much to look at. They stayed silent out in the garden through the cool and rainy winter weather. It might have seemed like the perfect crime.

Now they are back. Daffodil, narcissus, crocus and snowdrop might already be blooming. If not, they are at least extending their vertical foliage. Tulip will be right after them. Spring bulbs tend to bloom in very early spring or late winter here, just in time to remind us that there are even more bulbs and bulb like perennials to plant. This is the time of year for planting summer blooming bulbs.

As the name implies, summer blooming bulbs bloom later than spring blooming bulbs. They also get planted later. Unlike spring bulbs, they do not enjoy winter in the garden. (Most spring bulbs are chilled before sale, but would otherwise need winter chill to bloom in spring.) In fact, some summer bulbs are sensitive to frost if they start to grow too early. Types that bloom only once can be planted late to extend bloom, but will need to be watered more carefully after the rain stops.

Dahlia, canna and the old fashioned big white calla are the easiest of summer bulbs. Happy dahlias can last for years, and can be divided if they get big enough. Cannas are even more reliable and more prolific. Big white callas are slow to get started, but can be difficult to contain of once they get established. However, the smaller colorful types are quite demanding, and not so reliable.

Gladiolus and the various lilies are among the most impressive of summer bulbs, but they bloom only once annually, and if not grown in ideal conditions, are unlikely to bloom more than once ever. Lilies want to be watered and fertilized regularly, and grown in rich potting medium. Gladiolus bulbs are typically planted in groups, but only a few in each group will likely regenerate after bloom.

Gladiolus

60203The sword of a gladiator was known as a gladio, and it probably resembled the leaves or floral spikes of gladiolus. These narrow and pointed leaves stand nearly vertical, angling only slightly to the left and right of a single flower stalk that can get as tall as six feet. The floral spike supports several very colorful florets that are arranged to the left and right, but tend to lean toward the front.

The summer bloom can be red, pink, orange, yellow, greenish yellow or white, in bright or pastel hues, and often with multiple colors. Florets bloom upward from the bottom, so lower florets fade before upper florets open. Gladiolus is an excellent cut flower anyway. Taller blooms might need to be staked.

New bulbs should be planted about now, at least four inches deep, and about four or five inches away from each other. Gladiolus want well drained soil and full sun exposure.

Bulbs Now For Summer Bloom

60203thumbLike a timely sequel, bulbs are back. Spring blooming bulbs were available in nurseries earlier, so that they could get planted and disperse their roots through winter, and get ready for their early bloom. Since then, Christmas trees came and went as they were replaced by bare root stock. Now that bare root stock is selling, summer blooming bulbs are arriving for late winter planting.

Summer bulbs are not on the same schedule as spring bulbs. Most of the earliest spring bulb bloom while their foliage is still developing. A few daffodil, grape hyacinth and crocus are already blooming prematurely. Summer bulbs start to grow a bit later and grow a bit slower, and then bloom only after their foliage has matured. Some may not bloom until late summer or early autumn.

There are a few similarities between spring and summer bulbs though. Both groups include plants that develop corms, rhizomes, tubers or tuberous roots instead of bulbs. All are known as ‘bubs’ for convenience. Although very different physiologically, they all function about the same way, by storing resources through dormancy so that they can regenerate within their particular season.

Another similarity is that after spring and summer bulbs bloom, and their spent flowers get pruned away, their foliage should remain until it withers. This foliage is what sustains the bulbs below while they replenish resources to survive through the next dormancy. (Actually, most bulbs replace themselves with new bulbs.) This foliage will want water and fertilizer like any other perennial.

Unfortunately, even with regular watering and fertilizing, the most popular spring and summer bulbs are not really as reliably perennial as they are purported to be. Except for the few types that thrive and naturalize like daffodils (spring) and crocosmia (summer), most bloom very impressively only in their first year, and then bloom meagerly in their second year, if they bloom again at all.

Crocosmia, dahlia, hardy orchid (Bletilla), canna and classic big white calla are the most reliable summer bulbs. Smaller colorful callas are not as easy, but are worth trying. Gladiolus, tuberous begonia and the various lilies are so spectacular that no one minds if they bloom only for one summer. Astilbe, liatris and various alliums work nicely behind where summer annuals will go later.

Gladiolus papilio (from the author of Tangly Cottage Gardening Journal)

p90127https://tonytomeo.com/2018/11/10/six-on-saturday-tangly-cottage-gardening-journal/

This link is to the original post to ‘Six on Saturday’ that was about the four dozen or so Gladiolus papilio bulbs that the author of Tangly Cottage Gardening Journal sent to me at the end of last October.

I tried to not get too eager about these new bulbs. I sort of watched their site shortly after planting them, just to make sure they were safe. Once they were planted, nothing else was done there. There was a bit of frost just to let them know what time of year it is. The rain has been soaking the ground for them.

More recently, I noticed that some of the spring bulbs, particularly narcissus, are blooming elsewhere. Daffodils with bigger flowers are just about to bloom. Even though I know that the summer bulbs bloom a season later, I also know that, their foliage starts to develop quite some time before bloom. They are not as fast as spring bulbs, so their foliage may appear months before ultimate bloom in summer. Again, I was trying to not get too excited.

Then on Friday, I needed to remove some licorice plant from the opposite end of the same big bed that the Gladiolus papilio is in. I did not go out of my way, but hey, while there, I went over to just make sure there were no problems where the the bulbs are at. I really did not expect to find these two shoots. They are emerging from bulbs at opposite ends of the row of the five groups of bulbs described in the earlier article. They look like small shoots of common gladiola, like those that emerge from the tiny cormlets that develop next to larger corms, which is exactly what I was expecting them to look like.p90127+

Horridculture – Just When You Thought It Couldn’t Get Any Sillier . . .

P81121Two others have already written about this far more proficiently than I would have:
https://sweetgumandpines.wordpress.com/2018/11/18/abomination/
Amaryllis, Queen of the Forced Bulbs
These two articles say it all. I would not have bothered to write about it too if I had not already taken the picture above. I did not read the label to learn what one of these articles said about why these bulbs were waxed. It seals in moisture, so that the bulbs do not desiccate while they bloom without water or moist media. They at least get water when forced by the conventional manner.
I suppose to many who force amaryllis bulbs, there is no problem with waxing them like this, since they are typically discarded as their forced bloom deteriorates. There is no expectation for the bulbs to survive the process to regenerate and bloom the following year.
We can at least pretend that we intend to nurture amaryllis bulbs that bloom in a ‘forcing kit’ that includes a small volume of potting media that sort of sustains the fleshy roots through the process. After all, they can survive the process and get potted into larger volumes of media to recover and bloom again. Some of us have actually sustained such bulbs for a few years Bulbs that are purchased bare and then potted directly into more reasonable volumes of media are of course more sustainable from the beginning.
Poinsettias and living Christmas trees are no better than forced amaryllis. Nor are the Easter lilies in spring.
Like amaryllis bulbs, Easter lilies can be purchased bare and grown directly out in the garden. Those that are forced in pots can be planted out in the garden afterward to possibly recover. Otherwise, they too get discarded after bloom.
Poinsettias can technically be grown as houseplants, but rarely survive that long. Those that do not get tossed after they shed their colorful bracts are likely to get tossed as they languish in recovery from the process of forcing them to bloom in a very contrived greenhouse environment.
Living Christmas trees are actually more of a problem if the ‘do’ survive. They so often get planted into small gardens, and often next to foundations of homes, with the belief that they will always stay small and innocent. The problem is that most are seedlings of the Italian stone pine, which grows very big and very fast, and soon becomes a problem that is very expensive to remove. If not planted in a garden and allowed to destroy all within reach, they die from neglect and confinement within their own pots, often within their first year.

Six on Saturday: Tangly Cottage Gardening Journal

 

tanglycottage.wordpress.com is where you can find it. This is a blog about gardening, gardens, life, and of course, Skooter the kitty, in and around Ilwaco, in the very southwestern corner of Washington, where the Columbia River flows into the Pacific Ocean. Like so many blogs, it shares compelling insight about a culture and a region that might be very different from what one is accustomed to. Then again, it might be compellingly similar . . . or even unexpectedly familiar. You can decide for yourself.

I have been to Ilwaco only once, about twenty years ago. I spent the night in a campground there while driving from Silverdale, west of Seattle, to Saint Helens, north of Portland. It was certainly not a direct trip. That would have been a two and a half hour drive. I was on vacation, so drove around the Olympic Peninsula. I sort of intended on returning someday, but never did.

After all these years, it has been fascinating to read about the flora of the gardens of the region. When I was there, I was more interested in the native flora outside of town. Ilwaco still looks something like I remember it to look like, although I think that there is more landscaping downtown now.

A while back, I commented on Gladiolus papillio that was blooming in a planter box in downtown Ilwaco. I was impressed that it was such a reliable perennial species of gladiolus. I had been wanting to grow a species of gladiolus that was more perennial than than the common summer blooming bulbs that I am familiar with, but had not decided on which ones to try. Anyway, in response to my comment, the author of ‘Tangly Cottage Gardening Journal’ offered to send me a few of the bulbs! How could I refuse?

These six pictures are of those Gladiolus papillio bulbs that came from Ilwaco in Washington.

1. It is so excellent to get a package in the mail from such an exotic and far away place! It got here very fast. It was in my mail only two days after being postmarked on October 25.P81110

2. The contents of the package are even more excellent than the package itself! There were nearly fifty bulbs here! I planted them on the first of November, a bit more than a week ago.P81110+

3. The bulbs were planted in three groups of about a dozen, with two groups of about half a dozen between them. The first group is partly buried here because a bit of soil fell back into the hole before I got this picture.P81110++

4. This is how the same first group of bulbs looks completely buried. Aren’t they pretty? Never mind the calla. It is not vigorous enough to bother the Gladiolus papillio.P81110+++

5. This is the planting bed where the Gladiolus papillio bulbs were planted. They are up in back, in a row that extends from the left edge of the picture to the corner of the trellis with the espaliered camellia. The pinboard and mailbox in the top right corner of the picture are at the Post Office next door. I would have preferred to plant the bulbs in front of the Post Office, but there is no place to do so over there. I am pleased that these Gladiolus papillio were planted in a public space almost in front of the Post Office because that is where they originated in Ilwaco. As the proliferate, I intend to take a few to my downtown planter box in Los Gatos, and might even share a few with the lady who tends to the planter box next door to the Los Gatos Post Office.P81110++++

6. This is the Mount Hermon Post Office is next door.P81110+++++

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

Fall For Spring Bulbs Now

61019thumbThey are certainly not much to look at now. They are even less interesting once buried out of sight in the garden. The big and colorful pictures on the boxes that they arrive in are probably a bit more spectacular than the flowers expected early next spring will actually be. Nonetheless, it will be amazing to see such flashy bloom emerge from seemingly lifeless bulbs that get planted now.

Dormant bulbs are so easy to plants precisely because they are dormant, and therefore lacking any foliage, bloom or roots that can be damaged in the process of planting. They only want to be planted at the right depth, and preferably in the correct orientation (with their tops up and their bottoms down). They like to be planted now, so that they can slowly chill through cool winter weather.

Chill through winter is important to convince dormant bulbs that it really is winter. In such a mild climate, some plants might wonder about that. Cool winter weather either initiates the development of blooms within dormant bulbs, or stimulates bloom as weather subsequently warms. Many tulip, hyacinth, anemone and ranunculus might not get enough chill here to bloom after their first year.

Daffodil, narcissus, grape hyacinth and some iris are not so discriminating. They are likely to bloom even better in their second spring, and can naturalize in good soil with occasional watering. Freesia and crocus might also naturalize, but want more water. Crocosmia and montbretia can actually be invasive. Dahlia and gladiola are summer bulbs, so will be available for planting later.

All bulbs, as well as the corms, rhizomes, tubers and tuberous roots that are commonly known as bulbs, become available in nurseries when it is time for them to be planted, for obvious reasons. Some will be available for quite a while, so can be planted in phases every two week or so, like vegetable plants. Each subsequent phase starts to bloom as each previous phase finishes bloom.

Phasing only works for certain bulbs that are on a tight schedule, and only for the first season. By the second year, they will be synchronized. Iris, anemone and ranunculus tend to bloom together, when the weather is right, regardless of when they were phased. Plants with aggressive roots might not bother bulbs in their first season, but can smother bulbs that might otherwise naturalize.

The Right Bulbs Save Energy

51014thumbAfter working so hard to bloom so impressively in spring or summer, bulbs redirect their efforts into saving up their energy for winter dormancy. That is why their fading foliage lingers after faded flowers get pruned away. The foliage eventually dries and deteriorates, leaving plumped dormant bulbs to overwinter underground. It is all their natural life cycle.

However, to bloom well the following spring, many bulbs need to be chilled while dormant. Such bulbs are from cooler climates. The chill convinces them that it really is winter, and that it will be safe to bloom when weather gets warmer in spring. They can get rather confused without adequate chill. Some may never bloom as well as they did their first spring.

Tulip, hyacinth, lily, anemone and ranunculus are probably the best examples of the worst perennial bulbs. Technically, they are perennials. Where winters are cooler, they may naturalize and bloom every spring. Here, winters are just too mild. They bloom very impressively in their first spring, but rarely bloom as well the second spring, and only if pampered.

Narcissus, daffodil, grape hyacinth and bearded iris are much more reliable. Crocus and freesia are a bit more demanding, but can be reliable if they get what they want. Montbretia and crocosmia are reliable enough to become invasive. Gladiola and dahlia, which are not quite as reliable as crocus, are summer bulbs, so get planted a bit later.

Of course not all bulbs are true bulbs. Some are corms, rhizomes, tubers or tuberous roots. Some get planted deeply. Bearded iris and a few others get planted shallowly. A few others do best in pots. In their first year, some bulbs can be planted in phases so that they bloom in phases the following spring. However, all bulbs of each type will synchronize by their second year.

Anemone, ranunculus and bearded iris bloom too synchronously to be phased. No matter when they get planted, each type blooms at the same time. However, some bearded iris bloom as early as the earliest of daffodil, and others bloom late. Some even bloom twice!

Bulbs Foliage Lingers After Bloom

80418thumbDaffodils, freesias, lilies, snowdrops and the various early spring blooming bulbs and bulb like perennials will be finishing soon if they have not finished already, leaving us with the annual question of what to do with the foliage after bloom. The plants will not bloom again until next year, and the remaining foliage might be unappealing without bloom. Much of it slowly deteriorates into summer.

Bulbs that were forced have probably exhausted their resources, so are not likely to recover. Formerly forced daffodils and narcissus can go into the garden, but after the foliage dies back, they will probably never be seen again. Regeneration is possible though. Forced hyacinths and tulips are not likely worth the effort. They do not get enough chill here to bloom reliably in spring anyway.

Daffodils and narcissus (and for those who insist on growing them, hyacinths and tulips,) that bloomed out in the garden will need to retain their foliage long enough to sustain regeneration of new bulbs that will bloom next spring. As long as the foliage is still green, it is working. When it withers and turns brown, it is easy to pluck from the soil, leaving new but dormant bulbs in the soil below.

Some of us like to tie long daffodil, narcissus and snowdrop foliage into knots so that it lays down for the process; but this only makes it more prominent in the landscape than if it were just left to lay down flat. Freesias are experts at laying down, which is why they might have needed to be staked while in bloom. The foliage of many early spring bulbs is easier to ignore in mixed plantings.

It is even easier to ignore if overplanted with annuals or perennials that are just deep enough to obscure the foliage. Shallow groundcover might work for some of the more aggressive bulbs. Bulb foliage will need to be tucked under. Flower stalks should be pruned away from bulb foliage, not only because they are the most unsightly parts (if not concealed), but also because developing seed or fruit structures divert resources from bulb development.