Gardening with Galligan: Order spring plants now

CAROL GALLIGAN PHOTO There are different varieties of solidago, otherwise known as goldenrod. I have several plants of a lovely arching type with tiny flowers but love the wild ones that are blooming everywhere now. Here they are, cut for the house.

CAROL GALLIGAN PHOTO There are different varieties of solidago, otherwise known as goldenrod. I have several plants of a lovely arching type with tiny flowers but love the wild ones that are blooming everywhere now. Here they are, cut for the house.

Fall began last week. The evenings are wonderfully cool and the mornings are at least a little dry. Here and there leaves are beginning to turn and I have laid a fire in the fireplace, although I haven’t lit it yet.

But a glass of wine on the deck (with cat) ends earlier than it did. Sad? Not really. Every season lasts a little too long for me, which may be another way of saying I simply need to be less impatient.

I did my bulb order this past week and hopefully you are doing yours. As I mentioned last time, making extra copies of the order form is a good way to start. Check your garden book, noting what did well last spring and what you wish you had bought more of. Now you’re ready to order.

I always order several hundred tulips. I think of it as my birthday present (it’s lurking nearby, my birthday that is) to myself, since treating tulips as annuals could easily be understood as an extravagance. The alternatives are accepting an acre of brown or digging them up and heeling them in to ripen in some out-of-the-way spot. Both are beyond my physical strength or emotional well-being. I love tulips and could not face spring without them.

Tulips, however, must be understood as deer food, actually deer caviar. The sane gardener must grow them only in well-protected places. I have several empty side beds, half-shaded, but good bulbs won’t care, and some large square planters on a balcony. Yes, a balcony. Deer don’t have ladders. At least, not yet.

If you’re using planters in a safe place (and the deer will come up the stairs onto a deck), think about double planting. Put in the tulips 4 or 5 inches deep, cover them with soil until they are 3 or 4 inches from the top of the planter, then layer in as many crocus bulbs as you can, cover them with another inch or two of soil and mulch heavily. Then forget about them until spring.

I’m trying two new things. Last spring I noticed a spot towards the end of my driveway that got dappled sun and was noticeably empty; it was begging for some bright early daffodils. I really wanted one of the newer oranges, since all of mine are either yellow or white. So I splurged on some daffodil ambergate, with orange to amber petals and a red cup.

Be aware that newer species are always more expensive. I buy from wholesale houses rather than retail but the lesson remains the same. Scanning my Van Bourgondien wholesale catalog, in the daffodil section, the prices range from $11 to $49 for 25 bulbs. The cheapest are the old standbys, the most expensive, the newest hybrids. I looked at some muscari as well; the price range was from $6 for 25 to $15 for 10. That’s a stretch.

Let’s finish up with bulbs next time and look at the last blooms of summer.

Tip of the week: In our zone, the average date of first frost is October 15. But that’s average, which means 10 days plus or minus would hardly be surprising. Second homeowners, best to bring plants you care about inside this weekend. Better safe than sorry.

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