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Bulbs - Think Spring

Ranunculus 02-230x153It is time to think ahead and plant bulbs for the Spring garden. Most Spring-flowering bulbs are best planted from Mid to Late Autumn. If planted then Spring bulbs will establish roots before Winter arrives giving them the longest period to grow and mature. This insures better plant health, quality and quantity of bloom.

But many varieties of Spring-flowerng bulbs can be planted onward as late as Mid Winter. Anemone, Freesia, Muscari (Grape Hyacinth),Ornithogalum and Ranunculus are prime examples that will often thrive in milder climatic zones if planted quite late. Hyaciinths, most Narcissus and some varieties of late-flowering Tulip will also flower when planted late. As long as they have three months of cool weather ahead of them, they should produce blooms but may not develop a strong enough root structure to carry them over for following years. Sometimes these are best regarded as 'annuals'. When late-planting bulbs into the garden, it is often sites that remain in cold wintry shade well into Spring that produce the best results. If the bulbs are planted into containers, either place these in refrigeration or outdoors in a similar chilling and cold, shaded position that doesn't freeze until roots appear out of the drainage holes and shoots begin to emerge. Then move the containers to a bright and cool position for flowering.

Pre-chilled bulbs are those that have been kept in refrigeration at roughly 4C degrees. They need between 12-16 weeks of chilling and no more than 22 weeks. This simulates their Winter cooling period. After this chilling period, the bulbs can be planted into containers or into garden beds where they will usually start flowering within 6-8 weeks. If clusters of bulbs are planted over a number of weeks, they will flower in succession and prolong the Spring bulb flowering season. Prechilled bulbs are classically planted from Autumn onward into Late Winter and even as late as Mid Spring.

These beautiful blooms are well worth the little effort it takes to grow them. For any garden lover who has ever endured a long, cold, grey Winter the sight of the first Spring Daffodil or Snowdrop peeping through melting snow is almost a religious experience.
 
That special lingering fragrance of Hyacinths, a bed of gracefully arching Tulips glowing in the Spring sunshine, or drifts of molten yellow Crocus, all bring fond garden memories to the botanically devout. Ask any of them and they will reassure the uninitiated that growing Spring bulbs is exciting, easy and memorably worthwhile.
 
Many Spring bulbs are native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. They prefer cold Winters, cool and damp Springs, and drier Summer weather.

Included here are:
most Narcissus species, Grape Hyacinths, Tulips, Scilla, Chionodoxa, Frittilaria, Crocus, Iris, Galtonia, Ornithogalum, and many more.
 
In very cold climates these bulbs represent the bulk of Spring colour. Galanthus (Snowdrop) Leucojum (Snowflake) and winter Aconite are famous for popping their hardy heads through snow.

The buds of Crocus, early Daffodils and bright, small Rock Tulips are so hardy they are sometimes frozen by late cold snaps and still flower undamaged the same afternoon! The 'world's favorite Tulip', Madame Lefeber, or the 'Red Emperor' Tulip with its enormous satin red flowers sometimes as big as dinner plates atop stocky stems is famous for freezing in Late Winter snow and then flowering undamaged as soon as the weather brightens and warms.
 
Another group of 'Tender' Spring flowering bulbs come from the Mediterranean, South Africa, and other milder climate zones with cool, occasionally damp Winters and  dry, hot Summers. New shoots and occasional blooms appear in late Autumn or Winter onward into Spring.
 
Their tender growth can be damaged by severe freezing so they are restricted to sheltered gardens or the cool glasshouse. These bulbs are excellent for warm, drier positions that drain well and most of them thrive in containers.

Included here are:
Freesia, Babiana, Ixia, Sparaxis, Tritonia, Lachenalia, some Anemone, Narcissus, Ranunculus and Gladioli species.
 
Here are a few points to remember when planning and planting bulbs for Spring flowering:
 
  • Bulbs prefer a well draining soil. Lighten heavy soils with sand, gravel and grit or place a handful of these beneath the bulb to protect it from rotting during wet weather. Raised beds are ideal of growing bulbs.
 
  • Most bulbs resent rich, moist compost and manures. Feed them with a good general slow release plant food or bulb food rich in potassium, phosphorous, and lime, crushed limestone rock or shell. Feed at planting time, as shoots emerge, and  especially after flowering.
 
  • The world’s best Dutch bulbs are grown over beds of crushed shell limestone covered with a layer of sand.
 
  • Planting depth varies with soil type but is usually twice the length of the bulb. Plant deeper in light soil and shallower in heavy soil. The pointed end of the bulb is placed upwards in the planting hole, not screwed into the ground like a light bulb! When grown in containers, the bulbs are often clustered much closer together than if they were grwon in a garden bed. Also place each bulb just below the soil surface so they have as much root space within the container as possible.
 
  • The exceptions being Anemone and Ranunculus which are planted with points or claws pointing downward. Soak these briefly prior to planting just below the soil surface.
 
  • Most bulbs prefer full sun and resent shading or overcrowding by other foliage. Anemone species, Aconite, Bluebells, Ixia, Ranunculus, Snowdrop, Sparaxis, Leucojum, Allium, and Scilla will tolerate part shade.
 
  • Guard emerging shoots against slugs and snails or the tender buds inside will be ruined.
 
  • After flowering remove seed heads unless grown especially for seed. Allow old foliage to die off naturally. Removing it prematurely can stop next years’ flowering. This is the most important time to feed maturing foliage. Use a balanced liquid plant food but also suppliment with extra nitrogen that is bacterially enriched like fish emulsion or liquid blood and bone. Keep the foliage growing strongly for as long as possible. The nutrients stored in this foliage is what will untimately be transformed within the bulb to produce next year's bloom.
 
  • Most bulbs are easily grown in containers. 'Tender'  bulbs (Freesia, etc.) will often multiply if kept well fed and watered in Spring but allowed to dry out in Summer. The secret here is extensive feeding, especially starting right after flowering. The later after foliage eventually withers away, make sure that the bulbs remain dry until they are ready to return to active growth in the Autumn.
 
  • When growing cold weather bulbs like Daffodil, Tulip and Hyacinth, immediately after potting them, place the containers in a very cool, damp, dark position for a minimum of 8 to 12 weeks and no more than 22 weeks. Keep them there until roots begin to emerge through the container's drainage holes and shots begin to appear.Then bring the pots into more light or inside into a cool room for earlier bloom. Keep well watered and liquid fed. 6 to 8 weeks later your magic Spring bulb flower show will begin to reward your  efforts.

About us

dale-john 01-100x66 Dale Harvey and John Newton met in Melbourne Australia in 1981. Since then they both have supported each others careers while also building and maintaining their own. Read about how they were able to turn their joint careers into one and creating a dream of a better world starting in their own local community.

Media & Publications

host daffodils-100x66The following articles are a small part of the many published editorials on or about both Dale Harvey and John Newton plus the property affectionately nick named by the people of New Zealand, as the
"Quarter Acre” Paradise gardens.

Awards & Credits

HOPE Trust-100x66This is a collection of Appreciation Certificates, Local and Overseas Awards with Acknowledgments presented to Dale Harvey and John Newton over the many years of their joint careers plus the Launch and Registration
of The H.O.P.E. Trust
The Healing of Planet Earth.

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P.O.Box Papatoetoe Central
2156 Auckland
New Zealand
Tel: +61 9 276 4827
Fax: +61 9 276 4025
Email: info@daleharvey.com 
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