September is the time to plant spring blooming bulbs. Tulips, Daffodils or Narcissus, Grape Hyacinths, Squill and Crocuses are the ones that grow well in Central Alberta. These bulbs need to be planted early in the fall, to give them enough time to develop a good root system, before the ground freezes solid.
Careful consideration must be given to the placement of Spring Blooming bulbs. They need to receive direct sunlight for at least half the day, preferably a full day. If the plants don’t receive enough sun, the bulbs do not absorb enough nutrients and shrink in size. This directly effects the size next year’s flower.
Choose a spot by fast growing perennials, or in an annual bed. Once the bulb has flowered the foliage continues to grow feeding the bulb for next year. The foliage can look ratty and is best if hidden by other plants.
The soil should have good drainage as bulbs rot when they sit in water for any period of time.
When planting any bulb, dig a hole 3 time the height of the bulb. Fill the hole with water and wait for it to recede. Next, place some bone meal or bulb starter in the bottom of the hole and place the bulb in, pointy side up. Back fill the hole and press the soil down firmly. Be sure to leave a hill and not an indentation where the bulb is planted. This allows the water to run off and not puddle on top of the bulb.
When purchasing bulbs, make sure that they are healthy. The bulb needs to be firm without any cuts or mold. If the bulbs are soft or injured, discard them as they rarely produce flowers or survive the winter.
Prices on bulbs vary greatly from store to store. When comparison shopping, remember that specialty bulbs cost more than the old standbys. The size of the bulb is very important as the bigger bulbs produce more and bigger flowers. Smaller bulbs of the same variety are usually cheaper but if they are too small they won’t bloom the first spring. This becomes more confusing as each variety appears to have a different sized bulb. Most packages list a bulb measurement or size.
Tulips give a splash of color to spring that can’t be claimed by any other plant. They come in a multitude of colors, shapes and heights. The blooming times on different varieties vary, making it conceivable to have Tulips flowering from the time snow melts until mid June. For a different effect try planting a different shape of Tulip.
The Specie Tulip, are the original tulips that grow in the wild as well as in cultivation. They bloom as soon as the snow melts and are wonderful at the front of the bed as they usually only reach the height of 8inches. (18 cm.) These tulips have smaller blooms but don’t usually need split and are often used for naturalizing.
Double or Peony tulips have at lease twice the regular number of petals. This gives the flowers a heavier, fuller look. Doubles need to be planted in a sheltered spot as they don’t stand up to wind or snow.
Parrot Tulips have feathered or fringed petals and look very exotic. Their unique shape and colors make them a must in most beds.
Lily flowered tulips are considered to be the shape of a goblet. They have outward curving petals that come it a point.
Tulip’s multiply, by producing more bulbs which often leads to overcrowding. Most soils can not produce enough nutrients to allow the bulbs to reach their maximum size. Consequently, the bulbs and flowers begin to shrink in size. If left alone, the bulbs disintegrate.
Before the tulips reach this stage they should be dug up and separated. When replanting the bulbs, be generous with the fertilizer as they must once again store enough food to produce flowers. Many gardeners avoid this step and replace the tulips when the flowers begin to shrink.
A little bit of work now gives plenty of pleasure in spring.