From the producer: December 5, 2008

On the misty day after Thanksgiving, I set out to plant bulbs. Then, I stood there and tried to remember where I was going to put all these things. Every spring I take pictures and make notes, “more bulbs here next year,” but when the perennials are still fluffy in November, it’s hard to remember my plan.

And since I add a few every year, I’m always concerned that I’ll destroy the current residents in the process. Fortunately, as long as the basal plate (root) is intact, a slice off the side probably won’t make a difference.  I just stick ’em back in, and they carry on.  With small and medium-sized bulbs, I use a dibber. If I run into something, no harm done.

I don’t fertilize (which used to be the practice).  I don’t worry about depth, except that in my soil, I really don’t want to plant too deeply. I get them secure and covered and then rely on their intelligence to find their own center of gravity.

A few old-timers are popping out already, which makes it easy to plant their companions.

One stand of Dutch iris in the front bed is in full force.  I value their sprightly form in winter as much as their blue flowers in spring. I started this stand with three bulbs a few years ago.  Last year I divided them to spread around and to move them away from the path to the hose.  Obviously, they didn’t mind.

Others are still hiding, and some are struggling to make it out of the jungle spurred by cooler weather. I need a chainsaw to deal with the Gomphrena ‘Grapes’ and the Eupatorium (Conoclinium) greggii.  I funnel some of the eupatorium into my five-pound chipper/shredder, Harvey.

Anyway, so first was a little clearing.  You well know what that led to:  pruning, deadheading, pulling out hackberries, running around like crazy from one bed to another in an overload of garden frenzy.  Instead of planting bulbs, I started pulling weeds, analyzing trees that need lopping, and making lists of things to do for the rest of my life.

Between fits, I thought about “designing with bulbs.”  Clustering is good, I know that.  Progressive blooming, got that.  Organizing them?  I wasn’t prepared to think this hard. When they’re merely squat pockets of promise, I lose track of what I’m doing.

But, like anything in gardening, at some point you just have to jump in.  In the crepe bed, I planted Lilium ‘Linda.’  I couldn’t resist something with my name on it, but mainly, I chose them for their vibrant orange and yellow flowers that should arrive in early summer.  I nabbed this photo from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.

Another experiment is the Arum italicum for a semi-shady spot under the mountain laurel in the crepe bed.  They hooked me with their caladium-like foliage in winter, yellowish-green spathes in spring, and spikes of berries in summer.  Another B&B image:

I planted some Ipheions (starflowers) in the cat cove. And by golly, I found that last year’s transplants have returned, along with the blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium). This is a good sign.

With the 10 I have left, I plan to divide them:  five each to asters in the den and crepe beds. I can just see them ornamenting aster rosettes in early spring. We’ll see who wins, since I’ll have them in three different conditions.

I put some Tinka tulips among the Mexican heather in the crepe bed. It would have been smarter to add winter annuals there first. With seeds and bulbs, in my garden that is never finished, I go through a lot of “whoops” like this. When I’m super organized or know exactly where I’m going to plant a perennial or shrub, I mark it with a nursery bucket and plant around it. But it’s not too late if I want to add violas.  They’re small and I can tuck them in.

For the rest of the bulb gang, I’m scattering them around evergreen perennials or crawling under those that will soon head out until spring. When they freeze back, and I haul their tops to the compost pile, the bulbs will manage the space just fine. In late spring, the emerging perennials will hide the bulbs’ ratty foliage until they’ve gotten their dose of nutrition and I can send their tops to the compost pile.

This week, many PBS stations are starting their winter fundraisers, so please check your schedules for November CTG programs you may have missed, or see them online in our Video section.

Until next week, Linda