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Published: Tuesday, 11/1/2005

Prepare now for a burst of spring color

Tulips and cannas. One goes in and the other comes out. Teri Clement has a basket full of tulips waiting to go in the ground. There are still a few weeks of good weather to get them tucked in for the winter.

Most spring bulbs like tulips, crocus, daffodils, hyacinth, and allium will burst out of the ground in a few months, giving us our first blast of color in the garden. But these spring beauties need to cool off for the winter before they will bloom. Most will flower quicker in the spring if you plant them in a sunny location. Bulbs planted in shady places will take longer to appear, but they will last longer in the season.

Teri Clement plants some tulip bulbs in front of her home. Teri Clement plants some tulip bulbs in front of her home.

I usually plant them earlier in the season, she says. I have a few places I like to plant them around the yard. She has a bed with iris and daylilies in her Maumee garden that needs a bit of spring color. I just love to see the early color and it s always nice to have the neighbors notice my pretty flowers, she says.

A good rule of thumb is to plant bulbs three times deeper than they are tall. Sprinkle a balanced fertilizer or bone meal in the hole before you cover the bulb. Some home and garden centers carry fertilizer formulated for spring bloomers.

One late blooming background flower is the canna. Mrs. Clement has a six-foot wall of them blooming in her backyard. But they aren t winter-hardy like tulips, daffodils, and other fall-planted bulbs. This tropical species blooms in many colors and has big, broad leaves.

Some can grow as tall as 12 feet. They love hot and humid weather, but they re not fond of the cold. Cannas don t start out with a bulb. Their flat, bulging root is called a rhizome and resembles the root of an iris.

Tag them with their name, blossom color, and height before the blooms fade. After the first hard frost, the foliage will turn brown and ugly. That s when it is time to take them in for the winter. Cut the stalk down to about six inches above the soil line. This makes a good handle to pull them out of the ground. Let them dry on a tarp or layer of newspapers for three or four days, then cut the remaining stalk.

Clean the rhizome by cutting off any bad or soft spots. Leave at least one bud on each rhizome and divide them as you pack them for winter. Brush off most of the soil and wrap them in newspaper or pack them in a new bed of peat moss.

Store them in a cardboard box lined with an unsealed plastic bag. Clearly mark the box and keep it in a cool, dry place that won t freeze over the winter. In March, dig them out of their hiding place and tuck them into pots. Get their roots growing again and move them outside after Mother s Day and the chance of frost is just a figment of your imagination.

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