Plant Now for Spring Blooms

If you have not planted your bulbs yet for spring, there is
still time. Buy them and get them in for splashes of yellow
and white in February, March and April. Just be a bit careful
about which varieties of narcissus, daffodils, jonquils and
cyclamineus you choose. There are hundreds of varieties, but
only a few do well enough in our heavy, alkaline, southern
soil to come back in profusion year after year!
After a few false starts over the years, I have come to
realize the beautiful King Alfreds are not right for our
area. Most of the bulbs that will naturalize and bloom
year after year are smaller and advertised as appropriate
for USDA hardiness zones 8 or 9. The zones are based on
the average minimum temperature ranges and the
blooming history of the bulbs including the needed
“cold time” for best blooms. Zone 8A shows our
lowest temperatures to be 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bulbs are actually “underground storage structures.” They
shoot up foliage and a bloom, then go on to store food for a
“long summer’s nap” to bloom again next year. This is where
temperature zones come in. Planted at a depth of two to three
times the height of the bulb, the bulb will be protected
from the heat, cold and water rot if it is suitable for our area.
Look on the packages you buy for the zone listings. Do
not buy unless you see zones 8 or 9. The best bet for great
bulbs is sharing with a neighbor who has a blooming
abundance. My Internet search led me to the Southern Bulb
Company at www.southernbulb.com and White Flower
Farm at www.whiteflowerfarm.com. Both sites have lots of
good information and pretty pictures. Nurseries operated by
locals are also good sources for bulbs that will
be successful in our area.
Some gardening friends, my husband and I
are planning an 11-day trip to Holland in
April 2010 to check out the homeland of all
the great bulbs. It involves a small ship on the
canals (unpacking only once), guided tours of
Amsterdam, flower markets and flower farms.
If this interests you, go to www.gct.com (Grand
Circle Travel) and check it out. Use the member number
000809058; code VAPT008 for a special Fenton discount.
Nancy Fenton is a Master Gardener.