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Diggin' In: Planting bulbs exercises more than gardening skills

November 10, 2014
 

Much is written about the good-health powers of gardening.

Gardening’s physical activities – mowing, weeding, planting and raking – exercise muscles, burn calories and reduce stress.

"Gardening is one of the best stress-relieving activities available, where activities might include stretching, pulling and deep breathing fresh air," says Becky Heath of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester, Va.

"Added to that, there is new information about relieving stress using fragrance – they now call it ‘aroma therapy.’

"Also, there is much information suggesting that being around pastel colors has a calming effect on emotions. Combine all three of these effects — natural exercise gardening with fragrant, pastel flowers — and you have a surefire way to help relieve some of the tensions in your life."

In October and November, bulb gardening is an excellent source of that stress-relieving exercise, according to Heath and Elizabeth Fogel, a senior horticulturist at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Va., www.lewisginterbotanicalgarden.org .

"Planting bulbs in the fall provides a great way to get outside," says Fogel.

"The weather is no longer hot and humid and is much more enjoyable.

"Knowing that you planted these bulbs in the fall gives you a sense of excitement as you look forward to the spring months ahead, anticipating the first blooms of your hard work. It can also be used as a great learning tool for children, teaching lessons about delayed gratification. During the winter months roots are established, and their efforts are shown beautifully in the spring."

If pastels are your palette preference, daffodils offer many possibilities, according to Heath. Plant these spring-flowering bulbs in fall, preferably after the first frost or when the soil temperature is about 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Daffodils are also the easiest perennials to plant for anyone new to gardening, adds Fogel.

"Daffodils are hardy and multiply season after season, especially if you amend your soil," she says.

"Better soil leads to better growth. Adding compost or organic fertilizer is an easy way to amend your soil — in fact, those are the methods used by Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden."

Here are some pretty pastels

Narcissus Pink Silk is a white petaled, pastel pink, long-cupped trumpet daffodil.

Narcissus Pink Charm is just that — a charming pink and white beauty.

Narcissus Lorikeet has the unusual coloration of soft yellow and soft pink.

"All three of these daffodils offer the calming effect of the pastel colors and an assurance of success in the full sun garden," says Heath. 

"When you add Narcissus Sweet Smiles and Narcissus Blushing Lady, you not only get their calm, pastel colors, they also offer the fragrance of the old-fashioned jonquils that our grandmothers grew."

When you pick a few of these luscious flowers and take them in the house, their natural fragrance is much more effective than the chemically enhanced store-bought fragrances used today. And the satisfaction that you did it yourself really boosts the spirit — and is an energy enhancer!"

Here are some good bulb companions

Planting blue Muscari, or grape hyacinths, around the ankles of the soft-colored daffodils helps you see their soft colors from a distance, advises Heath.

"Muscari Valerie Finnis is one of our pastel favorites," says Heath.

You can also add Hyacinthoides, or Spanish blue-bells. in pinks, whites and blues to extend the flowering season and give more weeks of pastel prettiness.

In addition, plants like sweet alyssum, thyme, Asiatic lilies, mints, roses and tuberoses are perfect partners in the pastel fragrance garden.

"All can be combined in the same garden and even planted in layers as long as the plants have similar requirements for sun/shade or moisture levels and if the soil is very rich and well drained," says Heath.

"The many different types of bulbs and plants that have nice fragrances, when combined in the same garden create unbelievable luscious scents that can help to heal the mind, body and soul."

If pastels aren’t your thing, these bold and beautiful bulbs are the best, according to Fogel.

Crocus tommasinianus is a herald of spring and critter-proof to boot. Voles and squirrels tend to leave this variety alone.

Iris reticulata are tiny irises that seem to hover just above the ground. They bloom on naked stems or scapes and typically grow 6-8 inches tall. Flowering in late winter and early spring, they are one of the first bulbs to bloom, offering hope of the warmer season to come.

Tulipa greigii Red Riding Hood proves bulbs can be attractive for their foliage as well as their blooms. The flowers are scarlet with a black spot at the base; the leaves are streaked with brown-purple. Interesting foliage is especially appealing in tulips, since the blooms can be so fleeting.

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(Kathy Van Mullekom is the garden/home columnist for the Daily Press in Newport News, Va. Follow her on Facebook@Kathy Hogan Van Mullekom, on Twitter @diggindirt and at Pinterest@digginin. Email her at kvanmullekom@aol.com.)

SIDEBAR: Bulbs 101

Why don’t my bulbs bloom? Bulbs are easy to grow. They bloom under a multitude of different conditions because inside the bulb is everything it needs to flower. There are conditions in which the bulbs and blooms don’t develop as expected — for example, soil does not drain well, which kills the roots and eventually the bulbs. Crop rotation also often benefits bulbs, planting tulips where daffodils grew and vice versa. Too little sun adversely impacts flowering. In addition, bulb foliage needs to remain at least six weeks after flowering is finished so the bulb’s food supply is replenished for the following season.

What’s eating my bulbs? Unfortunately, rodents like bulbs. Tulips are very desirable while alliums, daffodils and hyacinths are rarely damaged. Plant the bulb at the maximum depth to prevent mice, squirrels or chipmunks from digging them up; use scentless organic compost to leave no trace of smell that can entice rodents to dig. Mix tulips in with bulbs like alliums, which smell like onion, or daffodils to ward off pests. When the bulbs start sprouting in early spring, rodents and deer won’t touch them if you spray the foliage with a deer-resistant product every three or four days, or after it rains.

What if my bulbs start coming up too early? Sometimes this can happen when it’s an early spring or when the bulbs are planted near a south-facing retaining wall in the garden. This is really not a problem since the bulbs are hardy and can take the cooler nights, even when they have developed foliage. There can even be situations in which crocus or early narcissus is already blooming while a late snow shower turns everything white. This doesn’t harm the bulbs — it just creates a great opportunity for some really nice early morning photographs of blooms peeking through the snow!

Is there a wrong or right way to position my bulbs?Not really. It’s best to plant bulbs with the pointed ends up, roots down. But even when bulbs are planted "up side down," sprouts will find their way up to the sunlight and bloom just as nicely as the ones planted upright.

Should I divide and replant my bulbs? When and how? Spring bulbs do not need to be divided as much as summer-lowering bulbs. When left in the ground, daffodils slowly spread over time. For the people who dig tulips and other bulbs in early summer, they will notice that under each flower stem there will be a large bulb and multiple smaller bulbs. These can all be replanted again in the fall — October-November — and each bulb should be planted separately

— Hans Langeveld, co-owner of www.Longfield-Gardens.com , a retail website for bulbs, perennials and edibles.

 

 


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