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.

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!

Six on Saturday: Cherry on Top

 

The flowering cherry trees are like something from Washington D C. They are remarkably happy in our particular location. The air is a bit cooler and a bit more humid than in the Santa Clara Valley. The redwood forest protects them from wind. These pictures were taken last Monday. Bloom is finishing now. The trees in the first picture are already mostly green with new foliage. Bloom was excellent while it lasted.

Azaleas are still in full bloom in the same area. Some are farther along. Others still have buds opening. They seem to be a bit late this year.

The Dutch iris is interesting because it is so uncommon here. In other locations, it blooms well only once, and then does not get adequate chill to bloom the following year. These Dutch iris are doing quite well near the ‘Kwanzan’ flowering cherry in the third picture, and have been blooming reliable for several years.

The pansies, which are actually easy to grow here, did not do as well as other plants that should not have done as well as they did. A few bare spots are evident. However, because they are partly shaded and cooled by the redwoods, pansies can stay in this spot near the flowering cherries in the first and second pictures until the weather gets too warm for them in summer. In other places not so far away, they would have been replaced by warm season annuals already.

1. flowering cherry – Some know them as ‘Yoshino’. Others think they are ‘Akebono’. I really need to find out what they are so that we can add more before these deteriorating old trees get removed.P80414
2. flowering cherry – Double flowers are not my favorite, but the clear bright white is. Again, we do not know what cultivar this is.P80414+
3. flowering cherry – This one is obviously ‘Kwanzan’.P80414++
4. azalea – This red azalea should be easy to identify, but no one really cares what cultivar it is.P80414+++
5. Dutch iris – In our climate, this is impressively reliable bloom.P80414++++
6. pansies – Yes, I know they are cliché; but they happened to be blooming near the flowering cherries, so I could not just ignore them.P80414+++++
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/

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.

Snowdrops

80221Where winters are more wintry, garden enthusiasts get to brag about their snowdrops as they emerge and bloom through melting snow. Diminutive white flowers against a backdrop of white snow may not look like much to us. We have more colorful flowers through winter, without the snow. Their kind of snowdrops, Galanthus specie, need more winter chill than they would get here anyway.

We have our own kind of snowdrops though. Leucojum aestivum does so well without significant winter chill that it can naturalize, and sometimes shows up in well watered gardens and riparian areas without being planted intentionally. Leucojum vernum is similar, but blooms with only single or paired flowers, rather than three or more small and pendulous flowers on each arching stem.

The rubbery leaves are about half an inch wide and a foot tall. They stand rather vertically, and can get nearly twice as tall if they need to grow through groundcover. The flower stalks are about the same height, and with the weight of the drooping flowers, might lean a bit outward from the foliage. Each flower has six white tepals with a yellowy green spot near the tip. All plant parts are toxic.

Plant Spring Bulbs In Autumn

71115thumbOf all the gardening chores, planting dormant bulbs is probably the least gratifying. All we do is dig a hole to the required depth and width, set a few unimpressively dormant bulbs with the correct orientation and spacing, and then fill the hole with the same soil that was removed from it. The process gets repeated until all the bulbs are planted. Soil amendment and fertilizer might be added.

There is nothing to show for our efforts. When finished, only bare soil remains. We might want to plants flowering annuals or a light duty ground cover over the bulbs, or we might just spread mulch. If soil amendment is needed, it should be mixed into the soil at the bottom of the planting holes. Fertilizer can get dispersed over the surface of the soil after planting. There really is not much to it.

Planting bulbs is also a chore that is easy to forget about until it is too late. If we do not see them in nurseries, we might not think about daffodil, narcissus, hyacinth, grape hyacinth, freesia, tulip, crocus, lily, anemone, ranunculus, iris or other spring bulbs until we see them blooming next spring. Yet, this is when their dormant bulbs, corms, rhizomes, tubers and tuberous roots get planted.

Many types of bulbs become available in nurseries at the same time, and can be planted as soon as they become available. It might be too early to plant those that are not yet available. Gladiola, dahlia, allium, calla and canna are summer bulbs that will become available later because they likely should get planted later, although calla and canna do not seem to care when they get planted.

Daffodil, narcissus and grape hyacinth are probably the most reliable spring bulbs for naturalizing. Bearded iris is likewise very reliable, but needs to be dug, split and groomed every few years. Freesia and crocus may not naturalize as reliably. Lily, tulip, anemone, ranunculus and hyacinth are spectacular in spring, but are unlikely to naturalize because they prefer more of a chill in winter.

Some bulbs can be phased in their first year. For example, if freesia flowers are expected to last about a week, a second group of bulbs can be planted about a week after the first. A third group can be planted about a week after the second, and so on for a few weeks until the planting season ends. As the first group finishes bloom in spring, the second group begins to bloom, and so on.