After reading the title you’re probably thinking, “What could she be possibly planting now? I mean it’s November!” Well as a matter of fact many of my favorite plants are planted at this time of year. The most exciting thing about spring is when the bulbs start popping up from the barren ground spreading their contagious cheerfulness. I am referring to daffodils, crocuses, hyacinth, Snowbells (Leucojum), and tulips.
I can feel the tension already mentioning some of these bulbs. Up north in the spring these bulbs grow easily and thrive in the cold. Contrary to popular belief we can grow these plants. However, there are a few details that I should mention. Crocus and Snowbells should give you no trouble at all. They can grow here and do come back the next year. Hyacinth can be grown here, but they may not come back the next year. I have had them come back, but they never seem to do as well as I would like. So if you really love it, grow it, but know it will be an annual.
My garden could never be complete without Daffodils. I fell in love with these at my mother’s house. She grew them on the side of the house where they happily multiplied every year. My mother worked a great deal, so she didn’t have time to amend the soil or mulch. However, these ladies came back every year without fail. They had to be tough to thrive in the sandy soils of Gulf Breeze, FL and withstand my mother’s neglect. The daffodils and I crossed paths again while I worked on the campus of my college. I was in charge of the data collection for Daffodil Planting Trial that ran for three years. It was to document which bulbs grew well in the south and came back the following year. I was fortunate to see after those 3 years which ones had made the cut. I was delighted at the different varieties available and how a new one would begin to bloom after another had finished. If anyone would like a list of the ones that were performed well in that trial let me know. Also, you do NOT have to chill these bulbs!
Now to the bulb that is always surrounded by controversy…the tulip. Here is the deal – tulips need to be chilled for 6 weeks to bloom and it is very unlikely they will return again the next year. To chill them they should be kept in a refrigerator in paper bags alone without the presence of food. The gases these plants secrete can be harmful if exposed to food. The cold exposure creates a bud that will flower in the spring. Without this chilling requirement they will not bloom. When planting the trick is to plant several of them close together for a vivid impact. Also, try to use the same kinds of bulbs because if they are all different (have made this mistake) the blooming will be sparse as these tend to bloom at different times. The more blooming at one time, the bigger the “wow” factor. It is true that you can search around your yard and dig up the bulbs and store them for the next year. I have tried it, but due to our humid summers I was unable to keep them cool and dry, so they rotted. My advice is buy the inexpensive tulip bulbs and use them as an annual. Nothing lasts forever in this life, but we can enjoy it while we can. When I think of planting tulips, I think of Tasha Tudor with her basket of bulbs, plugging them in the garden randomly without any plan. In the spring she, with her bare feet, walked among these breathtaking flowers…
I already loved these flowers, but when I went to France I was hopelessly devoted to them forever. Recently my husband built me a large planter just to have a special place for these plants. I have a large sunroom and my goal was to have something blooming directly in front of it all year, so I would constantly have something to look at. However, I felt limited with my plant choices due to the height they need to reach for me to see them while seated. It started as a raised bed, but now it’s more like a modified planter. It has no bottom and was built entirely from left over pallets from my husband’s work! He did such an amazing job and it was no easy task. The area I wanted to cover was 21 feet by 3 feet. This is the idea my husband made a reality:
Now I just need to fill it with good soil and plenty of bulbs! I can’t wait to see how it turns out. I’ve already found some pictures of inspiration that make me remember why I love these bulbs so much.
While we were working on this project we also created a pathway composed of recycled wood chips from a local tree company. I love the natural look it gives the garden. It would seem that Coach loves it too!
So don’t forget to get these treasures into the ground! They can also be planted in December as well. It’s cool enough for them to get established and they have plenty of time to be ready for the spring. My favorite company to buy from is Old House Gardens (www.oldhousegardens.com) since they carry the heirloom varieties that do well. We may not be able to grow these plants as easy as the north can, but we can still grow them here! Happy Planting!