Last column, hoping to be helpful to newbies, we reviewed most of the basic principles relevant to bulbs. And we decried the unpleasant spring weather, but assumed it would improve soon. It didn’t. But now, a full month later, it finally has.
In the meantime, all the fruit trees on the Island have come into bloom and finally faded. No more pink — the pink is gone, which is fortunate for me, because I love it and have none. Consequently, I’m reduced to enjoying other people’s, which basically involves taking your eyes off the road. If I’m ever involved in a major crash some late April or early May, you’ll know what happened. But the pink this spring was truly spectacular. On behalf of the pinkless, thank you, everyone, for yours, especially you guys on Noyac Road!
Now back to bulbs. Having reviewed the basics of growth, let’s pause for a moment and consider feeding. Bulbs, like all living things, should be fed. Any all-purpose fertilizer will do but should certainly be applied both before and after bloom. If your beds are well mulched, try to scatter the fertilizer when rain is expected (or a sprinkler is available). The water will drive the fertilizer down into the mulch and you’ll lose none to runoff.
There are truly lots of bulbs besides daffodils. There are also good books about bulbs on the library’s lower level. But let’s start with probably the most popular and simultaneously, at least in my view, the most problematic of the bulbs — the tulip! They’re popular because for color, only the lily can give you as much bang for the buck. And problematic, because after bloom the foliage takes a long time to “ripen,” and that’s a lot of just plain green leaves, nor particularly attractive, that you’re left looking at.
There are several solutions to this problem, most of which, sadly, require work. The most obvious is that the foliage can be moved elsewhere on the property and ripen there. They can be dug up and “heeled in” where they won’t be noticed. Notice the passive verb tense. Yes, said “digging up” and “heeling in” will require an actual human as well. This is why I don’t do it but follow an alternate solution. I choose to treat tulips as annuals, i.e., when they’ve bloomed, I pull them up and throw the bulbs away. Sinful? Perhaps, but I try to keep the garden free of moral judgments! Try it. You may like it as well as I do.
And let me recommend to you one of my favorites, the Hyacinthoides. They look like hyacinths that finally relaxed and they come in the same array of colors. They’re entirely reliable and keep expanding year after year. They make excellent cut flowers and the foliage dies away fairly gracefully. Because the leaves are so narrow, their die-off somehow is less dramatic. Mine are planted in a protected space, so I can’t advise you about deer. But they’re inexpensive, so perhaps worth trying a few.
It seems that the sun will now be with us, try working outside either early or late. And wearing a hat! Yes, finally, spring is actually here!