Tulips pictured on the package for our bulbs - the pink and white is a 'Triumph Tulip Del Piero' and the solid hot pink is a 'Triumph Tulip Involve'.
Cool sunny days with blue, blue skies, the crisp nip in the air that makes you don a sweater and one of Mom's homemade knit hats and changing leaves swirling about in the wind all have one thing in common. They are signals to us that fall is officially here. But there's one more thing that says 'autumn' to me along with the pumpkins, hot cider or cocoa and long walks in crunchy leaf strewn paths....its the planting of bulbs for next spring! The day before the first official day of fall, my Mom, my sister and I got to work creating a brand new corner garden in our front yard in which to plant some of our beautiful spring bulbs.
Our spring bulb corner bed in progress....
This month, I wanted to share with you how we installed this beautiful little flowerbed - as well as a few tips on planting spring bulbs. We started with nothing but a patch of dried up grass and lots of enthusiasm....by the end of the afternoon, we had a lovely garden in which we planted spring bulbs for next year. My Mom had been envisioning a garden in this location all summer. It was wonderful to see her design come to life as we worked together to make it happen! This corner flowerbed is just the start of our bulb planting this season, so check back soon for more updates right here and on our blog.
In our Hardiness Zone 8a, spring bulb planting season is usually from October to December. To find out what your zone is, visit the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map by clicking here. We had our first spring bulb planting session of the season a bit earlier than that in late September - which is fine. As long as you're planting 4 - 6 weeks before the ground freezes, you're well within the bulb planting time frame for your area.
Our tulips will look like this when they come up!
As I mentioned in the above tip, good soil is a very important factor in planting anything, but especially spring bulbs. Soil that is characterized as 'good' for spring bulbs such as tulips, hyacinth and daffodils should be well draining, fertile and most importantly, soft and rock free. We filled the bed with about 8 inches of good soil since the deepest level we'd need to plant our bulbs was 6 inches. You may add a foot of good soil or more, depending on the planting depth of your bulbs. Here's a good illustration from our experience about the importance of good soil when planting bulbs: When my sister and I were young, my Mom planted tulips for both of us in the flowerbeds around our house. I chose red, my sister chose orange and white. When the orange and white tulips came up, we had some scarring on the plants because the soil was too hard. Though the tulips were still beautiful and we enjoyed them immensely, this lesson on the importance of soft soil is something we've never forgotten. Spring bulbs are especially in need of softer soils, unlike dahlias, which thrive in less nutritious soil conditions. No bulb, however, does well in especially rocky soil.
Once your garden is prepped for bulbs, its a good idea to decide on the layout of the bulbs before you plant them. Lay out your design by positioning the bulbs in the areas you want them. Use your creativity - whether you like straight lines or soft curves, you're sure to have a beautiful, well designed bulb garden just by planning out the shapes of your rows before you plant.
Laying out our Tulip bulbs before planting....
Pay attention to the planting depth requirements of your bulbs, to be sure you're planting them deep enough. You can use a ruler to measure the depth of your hole. One of the easiest ways to measure hole depth, however, is to use a bulb planter tool with measurements on the side, such as ours pictured here. Just a little side note, we've had this little bulb planting tool since my sister and I were about 3 and 5. My Mom used it for the first time in planting our red and orange and white tulips around the front of the house that we lived in at the time. It brings back some special memories to once again use this tool in a bulb planting project we're doing together!
Our bulb planting tool is pictured here next to our bag of tulip bulbs.
Here's a view of our tulip bulb planter in use!
As with most spring bulbs, plant daffodil, tulip and hyacinth bulbs pointed side up - with the flat-bottomed, root side facing down. If you aren't sure which side is up in planting your bulbs, take a look at Better Homes and Gardens This Side Up: Bulb-Planting Tips by clicking here.
One of our tulip bulbs - pointy side up!
Bulb flowers such as tulips need to be watered very little. One thorough watering after planting is usually enough. Since tulips come up in spring, they usually get plenty of water just from the natural rain that's so characteristic of the season. Since bulbs can rot in the ground due to excessive moisture - make sure to plant your bulbs in well draining soil. Beyond the initial watering, tulips generally get enough water from the occasional rain that you probably won't have to water them again. Potted Tulips will need to be watered occasionally, since potted soil dries out much faster than the soil of a flowerbed. Water your potted Tulips as you see the top inch or so of soil becoming dry. Bulb flowers are not fussy growers and often like to be left alone more than anything else! If you do have an unusually long dry spell during the spring, you can water very occasionally just to make sure your bulbs don't try out too much.
Fertilizer is optional when growing spring bulbs - good soil is good enough to grow beautiful bulb flowers year after year. If you decide to fertilize your bulbs, fall fertilizing is ideal. That's because autumn is the time when the bulbs are preparing the embryo for next year's flowers as well as growing strong roots. You may also fertilize in the spring before flowering if you wish. Don't fertilize in the spring or summer after the tulips have already flowered because that's when they are close to going into dormancy for the summer. For that reason, the bulbs won't get all the needed nutrients and the product will be wasted if you fertilize in spring or summer after flowering. If you decide to fertilize, a 9-9-6 ratio for fertilizer is recommended for tulips.
Our tulip bulbs....
When your tulip bulbs come up, one thing to remember is that even though their blooms are very beautiful, they're best left in the garden if you want them to return year after year. Tulips are perennials in so far as you do not cut them. Using tulips for cut flowers, as well as trimming off unsightly brown foliage and spent flowers after blooming jeopardizes the growth of a new flower embryo for next year. This is because the flower and foliage on top is what sends nutrients down inside the bulb - giving it the energy it needs to prepare next year's flower. For that reason, if you want your tulips to continue to flower for several years, it's important to leave them uncut. Cut tulips will not flower the following year.
As bulbs grow each year above ground, they're also growing below ground. Bulbs multiply in number as they grow and will eventually need to be divided to prevent over crowding. Your new 'baby bulbs' are called offsets and will often be a lot smaller at first than their mother bulb. To divide bulbs, simply dig down carefully in the flowerbed, locate the bulbs and spread them out for more even distribution. You can also store them in a cool, dry, well ventilated place above ground and replant them in the fall. When you do replant your 'offsets' - only plant them about twice the depth of their height, not as deep as you planted the mother bulbs. Your offsets will need to develop for a few years before they reach flowering stage. Dividing bulbs usually isn't necessary until at least a few years after the initial planting. Crowded vegetation and less flowers are the main indicators that you need to divide your bulbs. If you need to divide your bulbs, do so after the flowers and foliage completely die back for the season.
Hyacinth pictured on our package of bulbs.
What We Did
The first order of business was removing all the grass from the area, and making the bed the shape we wanted. My Mom wanted a corner bed with a rounded front edge. Next, we needed to source our compost and soil materials, which we had readily available in the form of garden soil and composted manure from my sister's goats and horse. We also wanted an anchor plant to install in the corner of our new garden. My Mom chose an arborvitae we already had here at Wasell Gardens, so we also dug a nice size hole in preparation to receive the arborvitae.
Our arborvitae plant came from another place in our front yard. We transplanted it in our new corner garden as a larger plant to 'anchor' the space. Since we also wanted to make this space bird-friendly, my sister and I also installed a tray feeder for the birds in this same garden, then we filled the rest of the bed with good garden soil we made ourselves using an in-ground composting method the previous year. My Mom thoroughly watered our new transplant and we got to work on the rest of our design.
Our newly planted arborvitae with tulip bulbs placed in front of it.
Once the garden bed was prepped for bulbs, we decided to lay out our bulbs to finalize the design. Its a good idea to lay out your bulbs in the garden before planting to ensure even spacing and also to ensure symmetry in design. For this flowerbed, we chose to plant pink and white tulips called 'Triumph Tulip Del Piero' , solid pink tulips called 'Triumph Tulip Involve' and purple grape hyacinth called 'Muscari Armeniacum'. The hyacinth we wanted around the border of the garden bed and the tulips in four rows gently arced around the front of the arborvitae. Now it was time to plant!
Our hyacinth bulbs ready for planting!
directions on your package of bulbs when its time to plant. In the
case of our bulbs, the tulips required depth was 6 inches while the
hyacinth needed to be planted 4 inches down. As mentioned above, we
used our trusty bulb planting tool to create the holes for each bulb at
its proper depth. We then placed them in the bottom of the hole -
root side down and covered them completely with good soil.
After planting, we thoroughly watered our bulbs. Where we live we tend to have a fairly moist fall, winter and spring, so watering isn't too much of a concern for us besides the initial after planting watering. Now all that's left to do is keep the bed free of weeds and wait! We'll continue to keep the flowerbed well maintained in anticipation for our beautiful bulb flowers next spring!
Our finished flowerbed....
I hope you enjoyed this entry into the In The Garden journal. Join me again next month for more special gardening tips, projects and plant profiles!
By, Jessi Wasell
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