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Thursday, October 23, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 10/1/2003

Plant bulbs now for a springtime burst of color

If you want your spring landscape to look like a million dollars, bury your treasure this fall.

Planting tulips and other popular spring bulbs, along with some native flowers, will make your spring landscape burst with color.

Tulips' cup-shaped flowers come in many colors and heights. More than 5,600 cultivars are on the Classified List and International Register of Tulip Names. Some are considered double flowers and almost look like a rose or peony. Some even have fancy fringed edges. Daffodils, crocus, hyacinth, and allium also make an early spring garden come to life.

Mix it up a bit by planting some native flowers you might see while walking through the woods. Jack-in-the-pulpit, Solomon's seal, and trillium all grow from a rhizome and will keep your garden full of color into summer. Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema) almost looks like it belongs in the tropics. Arisaema's flower rises majestically from a single stem. The flower looks like a striped green, white, and purple horn with a large leaf in front, just like a preacher's pulpit. A.triphyllum is commonly found in North America. It grows best in partial shade and you can usually find it flowering in June.

Solomon's seal (Polygonatum) looks like an elegant ballerina. Its long arm of leaves drips with bell-shaped flowers attached to the underside of the stem. Polygonatum grows best in the shade. The most common variety, P. pubescens, will bear bright red or blue berries. P.odoratum variegatum is grown for its variegated leaves and red stem.

Trillium is another spring wildflower that many gardeners add to their landscape. It is named for its three leaves and three petals. You can usually find this low-growing native flowering in white, red, or pink, and some have spotted foliage.

When you plant bulbs, give them some company. A single bulb gets lost in the landscape, so plant at least six in a group. A dozen of one color in a spot makes a nice grouping. Have fun mixing different heights and colors together. Keep your themes in mind. These underplantings of bulbs will perk up the landscape and give you something to enjoy while other perennials and shrubs start to blossom. And once the bulbs fade, the blooming perennials will hide their dying foliage.

Many bulbs flower quicker when planted in a sunny area. If you plant them in a partially shady spot, they may take longer to come up, but the blooms will last longer.

Most hardy bulbs don't need to be disturbed until you see the plant suffer. Maybe the plant didn't bloom as much, or at all. If that has happened in your garden, it may be time to dig up those bulbs and divide them. A good rule of thumb: Plant a bulb three times deeper than it is tall, and plant it about two times its diameter from any other bulb.

Feed bulbs a balanced fertilizer or bone meal before they are buried. Some home and garden centers carry fertilizer for bulbs.



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