Notes from the Garden: Fall Is Here, but What Should You Plant?

As fall arrives, it is time to plant spring-flowering bulbs. I can’t imagine a flower garden without spring bulbs. Wherever you decide to plant bulbs, along walkways, meadows, beds, borders, or in containers, here are a few basics to help you on your way.

You can search for the best quality bulbs in bulb catalogues or in a local garden center. Be aware that sometimes cheap bulbs are not the best deal. Inspect carefully for mildew spots on all bulbs while you are planting. Bulbs that are soft and have different colorations are no good and must be replaced.

Spring bulbs require good drainage. If your soil is heavy (clay, for example), incorporate 25 to 30% organic material into the existing soil. The purpose of organic matter is to reduce soil compacting, aid in drainage, increase air circulation, and help retain proper moisture levels, so that your bulbs will root and establish themselves faster. I like to incorporate generous scoops of bone meal when planting, but the various fertilizer mixtures specifically for Daffodils, Tulips and other bulbs will suffice.

My absolute favorite Tulip is the White Triumphator, a tall, Lily flower type with graceful stems and ivory white blossoms. It is excellent for mixed planting shrubs and perennials. Daffodils, especially the tall, large varieties like “Ice Follies” and “Salome,” can be difficult to integrate into mixed planting, as they require a lot of space. Try planting Daffodils in naturalistic drifts at the edge of woods, or at the feet of large deciduous shrubs or trees.

You can plant small bulbs to make a lovely punctuation beneath the big bulbs and early season bloomers. Among the Tulips, the bright red “Tulipa Kaufmaniana”  is a totally unexpected surprise. It blooms early, and at six inches tall fills the height gap between Crocus and tall Daffodils. The small “Iris Reticulata” grows no taller than the small Tulips, with clean tubular stems, and blue and yellow flowers. There are also several wonderful Daffodils in the eight-inch range, such as “Jetfire” and “Foundling,” that link the front and back of the flower bed.

Plant a small number of bulbs with a bulb planter. Sink the tool straight down into the soil. To plant a full bed, borders, or meadow, first, dig a trench. Place bulbs facing up in the trench, according to your design. Replace and firm the soil and water well. Spread a thin layer of mulch to keep moist. Try not to plant too many varieties, and use them boldly, avoiding the busy look that results from planting collections or mixtures. Don’t hesitate to mass one single variety together—be bold!

Landscape Designer, Writer and Lecturer, Frederico Azevedo is the CEO of Unlimited Earth Care, providing landscape design and maintenance to the Hamptons for over 20 Years. For more info, contact 631-725-7551 or visit www.unlimitedearthcare.com.

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