Fall is often touted as the perfect time to plant trees, bushes and perennials. If you’re into watering deeply until the ground is frozen hard, I’d say go for it! You will need at least a good month of watering to make sure the roots become established. Another reason to plant in the fall is many nurseries are having really good sales. If watering isn’t your gig, then I’d advise waiting to plant in the spring and nature will help.
The one thing you can plant this drought waterless autumn is spring flowering bulbs. Yes, they will need some water but not the quantity live plants require.
First decide what you want to bloom next spring.
· Do you want color? Tulips have the most diverse color range.
· Do you want longevity? Daffodils (Narcissus and Jonquils) not only live a long time, they spread. Typically, deer won’t eat these.
· Do you want something really early? Crocus is the most easily found and they also multiply.
· How about cost? Bulbs prove “bigger is better” and bigger costs more. But, there’s good news for limited budgets: The big box store bulbs will come up and will be pretty. They may not be as pretty, large, or long lasting as the more expensive but they’re a good place to start.
If you want truly beautiful flowers, check out local nurseries and reputable catalogs.
The trick to planting spring flowering bulbs is to follow directions especially depth. For you newbies, it’s also important to plant the bulb right side up. If they aren’t planted to the right depth, they will struggle and most likely die or not produce flowers; A waste of time and money.
Some directions suggest adding fertilizer and/or bone meal. Unless your soil is field clay or sand, I’d forget the amendments when planting. For one thing, dogs love to dig up anything smelling like bones. Once the bulbs are established, a top dressing of aged manure would be good.
If you have a problem with animals digging up things in your yard, I’d suggest planting your bulbs in chicken wire boxes. I know it’s a pain but it’s about the only way to protect your bulbs. You can make your own with a pair of wire snips and gloves.
The reason to plant spring flowering bulbs in the fall is they must have the cold season to produce.
Suggestion: Don’t plant one at a time in a long line as it’s going to look pretty dorky in the spring (yes dorky is a garden term.) Drop or gently throw them and plant where they land. This will look like nature was in charge. Otherwise, dig a large hole, in width, and plant several in one place, keeping in mind the directions for spacing (can anyone have that many commas in one sentence, yes.)
Do not cut off or mow the foliage from any of these spring flowering plants until they have turned brown and are lying on the ground. They gain their nutrients for next year’s flowers from these leaves. It’s a good reason to plant these bulbs where later emerging perennials will soon camouflage the dying leaves.
Here’s some of the more unusual plants I’ve found to be lovely each spring:
· Hyacinths: These are the most wonderfully fragrant and long lasting flowers. Plant up front where they can be highlighted since other perennials will also be competing for their space.
· Fritillaria: Most of these have nodding checkered bells. Mostly purple or white and so very sweet.
· Snowdrops, Glory-of-the-Snow, and Winter Aconite: Bloom very early; sometimes through the snow.
· Squill, Grape Hyacinth and Bluebells: All spread and bring a beautiful blue to the spring gardens.
If you really like unusual, there are Parrot tulips, Spider tulips, branched tulips and narcissus, peony tulips, and some are highly fragrant. For the obsessive spring bulb aficionado (and I salute you): visit www.oldhousegardens.com to find rare, heirloom, and truly wonderful options.
You will never NEVER ever EVER regret the time you spent this fall planting spring flowering bulbs.