Thick-stemmed “King Alfred” daffodils are well suited for windy Haida Gwaii. (InAweofGod’sCreation/Flickr)

Deer Gardener: Bulbs go boldly into winter

By Elaine Nyeholt

Bulb time! I love bulbs. I think of each one as a tidy precious bundle of promise for the next season. Everything to produce a spring flower is neatly tucked within the shell of the bulb to provide for a future bloom. Apparently corms, rhizomes, and tubers are all considered bulbs, but then there are “true” bulbs that store and provide nutrients at the correct time to support growth and blooms.

The earlier blooming spring bulbs are usually shorter, smaller flowered, and often multi-flowered, which protects them somewhat during foul weather. They need to be placed in groups about 10 cm apart to have a good show. Plant them anytime now, being careful that the soil bed drains well enough that it won’t rot the bulb. Also, plant them deep enough so you won’t disturb them when putting in annuals.

One option is to plant them in largish pots and sink the bottom half in the ground to stabilize them against the wind. The pots can be moved after blooming to a less visible location to finish the die-down. I like this system, but it’s more time-consuming.

Anemone bulbs like to be soaked for a few hours before planting. It is difficult to tell the top from the bottom, so planting them on their side is a viable option.

My all-time favourite daffodil bulbs are called King Alfred. The large plain yellow flowers stand up to the weather well on strong stems. Bold and tenacious… what more can we ask for in a plant.

Many new multi-flowered daffodils and tulips have become available in recent years. Do not under estimate the effectiveness of these plants. They provide an exquisite show of color and fragrance even. Grouping bulbs is much nicer than having a single flower here and there.

Hardy Gladiolas (Gladiolus Byzantinus) do extremely well here and can be planted in the fall or spring. They are quite carefree but for basic weeding and well-drained soil. The colours are varied and rewarding.

Crocosmia are tough gladiola-type bulbs with red or orange flowers. They are a freely spreading, hardy bulb-like plant that will naturalize readily. I have several clumps that need a new home, if you are interested. They are orange and very robust. Call 250-557-2002 to set up a date… or watch the top of my driveway for freebies!

Begin your Christmas plans by checking your last years’ Amarylis (Hippeastrum). If the bulb is firm, thick and pregnant-looking, place it in a dark cool spot for about four weeks or until it begins to grow.

However, if the bulb is spongy and has layers and layers of dry leaves with not much under them, the bulb has not replenished enough to bloom, although it will leaf weakly. I recommend discarding the worn out bulb with a little pat of thanks and purchasing a new one.

Christmas cactus needs to have the water stopped, and place them in a dark cool location, (where they will not freeze) for four weeks. I will talk about potting them up next time for great winter blooms.

Christmas plants… that’s exciting!

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