The Naked Ladies (Amaryllis belladonna) are blooming this week and no matter what the weather is today, Naked Ladies blooming means it is time to get going on planning for a beautiful spring. Pots, window boxes and flower beds loaded with crocus, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, iris, snowdrops and other early bloomers, begin now with ordering bulbs and preparing soil.
Purchase carefully. The tulips I ordered last year were full of mold and most of them did not bloom. The Leucojums (snowflakes) were so dry they did not even bother to come up. Whether you purchase your bulbs and corms from stores, by mail, or email, buy from well-known providers. The hassle of getting a refund or replacement wastes a lot of time.
Try to find out when your local stores will have fall planted bulbs available and go as soon as you can. Select the largest, healthiest looking bulbs in the boxes.
Choose a location that will receive 4 hours or more of sun in the spring. The ground under the end of the branches of trees that lose their leaves is an excellent location. In order to bloom year after year, bulbs need to be in well-drained soil and the roots of trees and shrubs take up any extra rainwater, preventing bulb rot.
To prepare a planting area for fall-planted bulbs, remove the weeds and dig down 10 to 18 inches and add compost, leaf mold or peat moss as you replace the soil.
Like all root crops, flower bulbs need phosphorous to grow well. The phosphorous does not travel from where it is placed so it has to be added where the bulbs are planted, 6 to 8 inches deep. Bone meal, compost and superphosphate are all sources of the mineral. If the soil has not been improved over the years, add some fertilizer such as 10-10-10, 5-10-5, or bulb fertilizer.
Spring-flowering scilla, puschkinia, muscari, fritillaria, grape hyacinth, tulips, daffodils and iris are reliable. Other popular bulbs such as allium, camassia, and eremurus are happier in the Pacific Northwest and England than in our NE OK zone 7.
To plant bulbs in pots, use a container that is deep enough for the bulbs to have healthy leaf growth that does not fall over from being planted too close to the surface. Planting bulbs in layers is quite popular. Put a few inches of soil in the bottom of a well-cleaned pot, add a layer of daffodil and tulip bulbs, add 2-inches of soil, and top it with crocus and hyacinth bulbs. Top with 5-inches of soil and water regularly.
The first fun in planning for spring flowering bulbs comes from perusing the catalogs and imagining how pretty those shrubs will be with little bulbs coming up around their skirts. When shopping for bulbs consider whether you enjoy a blast of color (reds, purples and yellows combined) or a more quiet view (whites and blues combined) or a theme (red, white and blue). Tulips and daffodils have been hybridized so now you can get them from 6-inches tall to 18-inches tall. They can be planted short, medium tall in a traditional arrangement or all tall with pansies underneath. What you choose is up to your imagination and style.
Mail order nurseries offer collections that arrive with planting instructions, fertilizing tips, watering needs, etc.
Garden Watchdog (http://davesgarden.com/products/gwd) is an online source of information about mail order nurseries. The nurseries pay to participate and the rankings are a result of input from readers.
Check out a few sources such as: Old House Gardens (www.oldhousegardens.com), Touch of Nature (www.touchofnature.com) Easy to Grow Bulbs (www.easytogrowbulbs.com), Bluestone Perennials (www.bluestoneperennials.com), White Flower Farm (www.whiteflowerfarm.com) and Brent and Becky’s Bulbs (https://store.brentandbeckysbulbs.com)