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Harbingers of spring
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Do you want a beautiful garden filled with flowering bulbs next spring? Then, now is the time to plant them. And picking out a desirable garden bed for bulbs will guarantee a show-stopping display for next season and provide joy for many years to come.

Many types of bulbs that grow well in Georgia can be planted at this time of year. These “true” bulbs and other bulb-like structures are corms, tubers, stems and rhizomes. They are considered “bulbs” in terms of planting.

Bulbs are actually a plant part. Its function is to ensure the plant’s survival during adverse weather conditions. When the bulb is planted, it goes into the ground dormant and when warmer soil and weather emerge, it grows and its foliage pushes through the earth.

Daffodils and jonquils are true bulbs. If daffodils are your favorite, more than 26,000 varieties come in many shapes, sizes and colors. Some even provide spicy to sweet fragrances when they bloom. Plus, daffodils are deer-tolerant. What a bonus for this area.

Choose varieties of daffodils that blossom at different times in the spring and early summer to enjoy a longer display. Early blooming daffodils include “Erlicheer” or “Rip van Winkle.” Midbloomers include “Petit Four” or “Pink Charm.” Late-bloomers include “Tahiti,” “Acropolis” or “Golden Bells.”

While it’s fine to plant daffodils in borders, beds or pots, these spring flowering bulbs with their grassy foliage look most at home in a more unstructured setting. Consider naturalizing daffodil bulbs where they grow randomly in masses and multiply by themselves.

If you want to veer from “true” bulbs, try other bulb-like structures such as corms and rhizomes. Corms include crocus, hyacinths and gladiolus while rhizomes include iris, canna and lily of the valley.

Some corms and rhizomes can be planted now while others need to wait until the spring for planting.

Tuber bulbs are another option. Those flowers include begonias and gloxinias.

When planting bulbs, site selection is important. Most spring flowering bulbs prefer light shade to full sunshine. Find a spot with at least 6 to 10 hours of direct sunlight per day.

Consider sites under trees, too. Most flowering bulbs produce foliage and blooms well before most deciduous trees leaf out, giving them ample sunlight through the cooler months. Select areas pleasing to the eye and arrange them in sizable planting groups for maximum show and color. Blooming bulbs in groups create an appealing aesthetic look in the landscape.

When preparing a flower bed for bulbs, consider a well-drained, sandy loam that stays moist. You can amend the soil with peat moss, sawdust, compost or coarse sand if needed. Incorporate a 10-10-10 fertilizer per 100 square feet of bed space. Add these amendments at least 12 inches into the soil.

Planting bulbs can start in October and continue until December in most areas. When you purchase bulbs, always select firm and unblemished bulbs. If you are not planting them immediately, then store bulbs in a dry, darkened area with good air circulation at a temperature around 60 to 65 degrees.

When you are ready to plant, depth and spacing are the keys to success. A general rule of planting depth is two to three times the greatest diameter for bulbs 2 inches or more in diameter. Spacing can vary from 1 to 2 inches to several feet.

Plant the bulbs upright with the fatter end going downward. But plant rhizomes and tubers on their sides.

Press soil firmly around them and water them in to settle the soil. Use mulch as a groundcover to protect them during the winter and conserve moisture. Mulch such as pinestraw or bark provides an attractive backdrop when the bulbs emerge in the spring.

And remember the landscape effect you are trying to achieve. Avoid planting in lines or spotty planting. A grouping in a circular pattern provides a stunning display.

Nothing is more pleasing to the eye than bulbs emerging in early spring from a long winter’s slumber.

Wanda Cannon serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. Contact her at 770-535-8293 or wcannon@hallcounty.org. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.

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