Gardeners can send themselves a colorful spring gift with just a little effort this weekend.
September is bulb planting time.
The Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center in New York estimates Americans plant nearly 1.5 billion bulbs each year. And one of the best features is bulbs may be planted deep enough to allow annuals to be planted later as those vibrant spring flowers fade.
Most common bulbs may be multi-hued tulips and bright yellow daffodils. But bulbs offer a variety of blooming spring plants that vary in size, shape and color. Bulbs are suitable for garden beds, rock gardens and work as singles or mass plantings. Some lakes area residents have more than 100 tulips in a bed that accents the summer vegetable garden nearby.
The Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center reports the biggest mistake novice gardeners make is in planting single bulbs instead of clustering flowers for maximum color effect.
In fact, the center suggests putting bulbs in a circular group for a "charming bouquet effect" or using a triangle pattern to "fool the eye into seeing more flowers" than are actually planted. If using the triangle form, gardeners are advised to put the narrowest point toward a favorite viewing position with the broad expanse toward the back.
A look at any number of tulip bulb providers will give novice gardeners an idea of the incredible variety in tulip colors and even petal shapes -- some mimic a peonies-type blossom.
Next spring, after the flowers fade, it is important to remember to leave the bulb's leaves in place even after the flower is gone. The leaves use photosynthesis and transmit food back to the bulb enabling it to bloom again the next season.
Large bulbs should be planted about 8 inches deep, and small bulbs 5 inches deep to bloom in spring. These are scilla siberica.
The Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center put together a list of what its experts in Holland considered the best of special bulbs. Some will not work for our area as they are not hardy enough for a Minnesota winter. Lakes area gardeners should look for bulbs designed to thrive in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's ranking of zone three, where the average low temperature can range from 30-40 degrees below zero. Zone four is considered areas with an average low temperature of 20-30 degrees below zero.
Experts at dutchbulbs.com suggest there may be some wiggle room. A gardener may find a sunny, protected south wall, which protects plants and allows more options in zone hardiness.
A comprehensive hardiness map is available online at Better Homes and Gardens Web site -- www.bhglive.com. Click on the "Garden" link on the main page and from there go to zone maps. The site has a downloadable map of each state down to the county and the typical average cold temperatures.
All but the northwest section above Brainerd and Baxter in Crow Wing County and a swath through southern Cass County is considered in the 30-35 below zero range. Those other sections are a little colder at 35-40 degrees below zero on average.
Many online gardening sites, including Better Homes and Gardens, have tips on how to plan a garden and spring bulbs guides.
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