As the days shorten and winter deepens, the wise gardener will get those last bulbs planted for the big spring show ahead. Nurseries are often keen to off-load the last remaining bulbs at considerable savings.
If the bulbs look healthy and feel solid, and the intended planting site is relatively sunny and well - drained with a loose, rich soil it is worth taking the risk. Bulbs planted this late should be given a little extra care to insure that they make quick, strong, healthy growth.
Place a pocket of gravel perhaps mixed with a little blood and bone, lime, and slow release plant food at the bottom of each planting hole if you really want to help them get a quick start.
This helps feed the newly emerging bulb roots, insures perfect drainage against rot in the damp days of early spring, and provides a dry pad on which the next bulb can mature in late spring.
Once all the bulbs are planted it is time for the final touches. Most gardeners aren’t content with leaving a vacant bed of bare, freshly cultivated soil until the spring bulbs emerge..
Mild winter conditions here permit the growing of many ground covers over the bulb bed, providing welcome foliage and colour now through winter and spring.
Once the bulbs emerge from the soil they can easily poke their heads through the groundcovers and begin their growth providing a second layer of colour in complimentary or contrasting shades.
There are groundcovers to suit almost every conceivable garden situation. Generally speaking it is best to provide a loose, rich and fertile soil in which to plant them.
If the site is warm and sunny over winter a wide variety of annual and perennial groundcovers will thrive. The trick to choosing the right ones for each site is often dictated by the soil’s ability to hold moisture both now and later as the drying spring winds begin.
Moist soils obviously prevail in the number of plantable varieties but a large number of plants actually prefer drying out as do the bulbs after flowering. This is an important point when planning the bulb garden.
Once flowering has finished it is essential to allow the foliage to ripen and the bulbs to gradually dry out. This allows the bulbs to mature properly and form the embryo flower shoot within itself which is the promise of next year’s spring flowers.
If the site stays too damp or the bulb foliage is removed, the bulb will probably diminish, wither or rot away. In hot dry spots try trailing convolvulus, veldt daisy, thymes, ice plants, verbena, brachycome, alyssum, california poppy, succulents, nemesis, and phlox subalta.
If the site is sunny with average to good moisture try pansy, viola, primulas and polyanthus, candytuft, virginia stock, forget-me-not, pratia, ajuga. In lightly shaded sites forget-me-not and violet thrive with shorter anemones and blue bells.
Vinca minor naturalize well with daffodils under deciduous trees. The combinations are endless but the time to plant isn’t. These are the final days to make those final touches!
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