Category: Bulbs

I think gardening season can officially kick off now

This has been an odd winter/spring so far.

Yes, beyond the late nigh tweets from Donald.

Bulb foliage emerged in January. December, January and February were way warmer and less precipitation filled than normal.

I banked on getting to spring cleaning tasks sooner than normal.

And then winter was all like “I’m going down with a vicious fight”, and we were slammed with snow and ice a few weeks back.

The remainder of that snow is now slowly disappearing and I am determined to get outside this weekend and play the role of gardener once again. It has been way too long.

I haven’t cut down a thing since the fall so I’ve got nothing but dead perennial foliage and ornamental grasses to contend with.

The only color in these parts, besides my frigid red cheeks, is from the Crocuses (or is it Croci?) that finally arrived this week.

I found time to hunt for new foliage growth and it took some parting of dead leaves and branches to find anything but it still felt great to witness rebirth.

False spirea (Sorbaria sorbifolia)

Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis)

Coral Bells (Heuchera)

Stonecrop (Sedum)

The daffodils are making up for lost time with many showing signs of flower buds. The bulbs below have found their way up and through an ornamental grass. I must have moved this grass last year without knowledge of the bulbs that quietly lurked underneath. Here’s hoping they can all happily co-exist.

Yet another faux pas. Moving rocks in winter knowing there is high potential to block a bulb’s growth come spring. Fortunately, this Allium bulb isn’t taking “no” for an answer.

I hope my fellow trapped gardeners can get outdoors as well this weekend.

Cheers.

 

Plant combo of the week – Daffodil ‘Mt Hood’ and Grape Hyacinth ‘Blue Spike’

Today I am rolling out a new feature on the blog – “Plant Combo of The Week” – where I’ll feature a plant tandem from my own garden that I am digging. We all know that our flowers and foliage look that much better with a partner or foil and I’ll do my best to highlight some of my favorites.

Since today is February 1st and spring is within earshot, I’ll give you a bulb combo I’ve had going for three years now. It is Narcissus (Daffodil) ‘Mount Hood’ and Muscari (Grape Hyacinth) ‘Blue Spike’.

The photo above was taken when both were in peak bloom, near the end of April and into early May here in my zone 6B garden. They typically look like this for a good two weeks. I am desperate for color at that time of year so this vignette is a welcome sight.

I had written a post about Daffodil ‘Mount Hood’ a few years back, so feel free to check that out if you desire more info. One of the more interesting features of ‘Mt Hood’ is that the flowers emerge yellow, and then quickly transform to an ivory white.

 

While this daffodil/hyacinth combo has only been together for 3 years, I’ve had the ‘Mount Hood’ daffodils for 7 years now and they show no signs of slowing down. I let the foliage die back completely and feed the bulbs each summer and I assume that has aided in their longevity.

The Muscari ‘Blue Spike’ foliage emerges in the fall and in the winter (I can see it right now out my front window) depending on intermittent warm spells, often dies back fully and then reemerges in spring. And the rabbits nibble it like mad. But even with that, they still perform and bloom without issue. I haven’t had a bloom chowed on to date.

 

I do have to admit that these are in the one spot where I have good soil drainage because they would never survive the winter with wet feet.

They are also in partial shade and don’t seem to mind even though full sun is the ideal exposure.

The ‘Blue Spike’ blooms get no taller than 6″ and have a decent fragrance but nowhere near that of other hyacinths.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In and around the November garden

What have I been up to of late?

Glad you asked.


I finally got around to installing my Screech Owl house. Fine, I didn’t physically install it so much as I was an active gofer for my handy brother-in-law who fortunately lives two houses away.

You all know me too well.

owl-house

The owl house was installed during the day on Saturday at a temperature close to 70 degrees and got its first test that night when we had gusting winds and almost 2 inches of snow.

Yay, November.


Who can resist a good late season plant sale? How about this monster bargain:

carex-lowes50 cents x 3 is so worth the risk of getting these through the winter. They are all Carex buchananii ‘Red Rooster’.

I consider it research for my ornamental grasses book.

A tax write-off.

Wish me luck.


Some times you just have a feeling.

Some times your gut tells you to just do it.

Some times you need it.

As silly as that all sounds, it all added up to me attempting to grow tulips successfully for the first time ever (not including in containers).

tulips

There is a deeper meaning at play here and one I’ll never talk about.

I need this to work and I’m confident that it will.

Tulips don’t dig the wet winter soil and that has been my problem for decades.

Until 2017 that is.

bulbs

We now wait until spring where my blind faith will hopefully pay huge dividends.


Beyond all that, I’ve been doing my best to soak in what is left in terms of color out in the garden.

spirea-fall

Spirea nipponica ‘Snowmound’

heuchara-fall

Heuchera

rhamnus-fall

Rhamnus frangula ‘Fine Line’

mountain-mint-fall-2

Pycnanthemum incanum (Hoary mountain mint)


And you know, ornamental grasses.

grasses-fall-2

 

grasses-fall

 

grasses-fall-3

 

miscanthus-fall

 

 

 

 

An early spring garden tour

Even with temperatures dipping into the 40’s here in Central New Jersey and wind gusts of up to 40 mph, I still managed to spend a good deal of time in the great outdoors garden on Sunday. There was still dead perennial foliage to be removed, a first wave of weeds to eradicate and the never ending task of cutting down all of the ornamental grasses. When there is an available window of time for garden chores, you take it, no questions asked.

After the “tasks” were completed for the day, I grabbed the camera and did my best to capture what’s going on. Things seem to have slowed down a bit in the garden after the colder weather arrived this past week but there are still signs that we are in fact moving forward. And that is a good thing.

Bud break on the Viburnum ‘Amber Jubilee’ promises stellar foliage is coming in the very near future.

viburnum emerging

 

Same goes for the Sambucus ‘Lemony Lace’ which lived comfortably in a container last season but has now made the jump to the big leagues and is in a very prominent spot in the garden.

emerging foliage

 

Variegated Siberian Iris will enjoy it’s first spring in my garden and here’s hoping it enjoys it’s stay.

emerging iris

 

Bee Balm rosettes threaten to take over all other perennials and I’m OK with sitting back and watching how it will all play out.

emerging bee balm

 

Daylilies … um … are green or whatever.

daylily emerging

 

The cool season ornamental grasses are showing signs of life as seen here with Calamagrostis ‘El Dorado’.

grass emerging

 

The buds on Viburnum carlesii ‘Aurora’ have turned to their usual pre-blooming pinkish hue and it won’t be long before that killer scent is wafting in my front windows and carrying me away to my happy place.

viburnum bud

 

I couldn’t bring myself to cut down the Panicum ‘Northwind’ yet. With nothing but cold temps and wind on the horizon, I still need to watch them dance a bit more before I can bid them goodbye.

northwind blowing

 

And on to the bulbs.

Daffodils, not the most original and unique of blooms but it is still color and they come back without fail year after year after year. An underrated attribute I do not take for granted.

daffodil

 

More Narcissus not too far away.

daffodil buds

 

daffodil buds 2

 

Leucojum aestivum (Summer Snowflake) is starting to bloom and is one of the few bulbs that can withstand wet soil conditions over the winter. Hence, I have got a lot of it. Loved how the back lit sun was captured here.

leucojum

 

leucojum 2

 

The Hyacinth blooms are mini in stature but I’m just psyched that they came back at all again this year. It is the first time I’ve had repeat bloomers. It’s the little things that make me happy.

hyacinth

 

Allium Drumsticks (Ornamental Onion)

I may have been late to the Allium party, but I am definitely making up for lost time. Over the past 3 years, I’ve added at least 6 new Allium (ornamental onion) species/cultivars/varieties to my garden. The deer never touch them and they add a sweet pop of color throughout the spring and summer months. For today’s purposes, let’s chat a bit about Allium Drumsticks.

allium drumsticks

I added this bulb in fall of 2014 and within one year it is already kicking some major ass. I planted a lot of 15 of these in close proximity to each other and could not have been more thrilled with the results.

Starting in early summer, Allium Drumsticks buds started to transform from a green to a reddish purple color.

allium drumsticks

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As the first wave of blooms on the bee balm (in the background) started to fade, Allium Drumsticks took over as seen below.

048

And the bees waste no time locating the blooms.

c14

Within a week or two, they were in full egg-like bloom.

allium drumsticks

I’d estimate the blooms stayed at peak form for two weeks before the inevitable fade.

034

Together with the spent bee balm buds, they formed the ultimate in the late summer fading garden, which I still enjoy.

038

Some more Allium Drumsticks info:

  • Prefers full sun
  • Viable in zones 4A – 10B
  • 1 to 3 feet in height
  • Blooms in mid-summer
  • Deer resistant
  • Best planted in the fall like most spring/summer bulbs
  • Best planted in drifts for the greatest garden impact
  • Naturalizes freely (will see if that is so with my conditions)
  • A great “peek through” plant (see bee balm combo above)
  • Susceptible to rotting in wet conditions

Because of that last note, I decided to craft this post sooner rather than later since there is a good chance my bulbs will have rotted come summer.

Fingers crossed.

 

 

An early May garden update

The latest and greatest in my garden this first week of May:

10 days in and these ‘Double Beauty’ daffodils show no signs of slowing down. If I had to guess, they have tripled in count since I planted them three years ago.

daffodil blooms

Daffodil ‘Double Beauty’

 

The ‘Mt Hood’ daffodils are reliable year after year with this being their latest bloom time ever (and yes I know this for a fact based on my spreadsheet entries over the years. You’re jealous.)

daffodil white

Daffodil ‘Mt Hood’

 

I am happy to report that my Hyacinth ‘Blue Spike’ planted last fall have bloomed and withstood the leaf nibbling from the rabbits.

daffodil and hyacinth

Hyacinth ‘Blue Spike’ and Daffodil ‘Mt Hood’

I planted them in small bunches in between the Catmint ‘Nepeta’ along my front walkway and I am digging the punch of color they provide while everything else is slowly emerging.

front walkway

 

The Summer Snowflakes are all in full bloom and I can vouch for the fact that they withstand the saturated soil year after year.

leucojum blooms

Summer Snowflake

 

While many of the daffodils are starting to fade, I am most pleased with myself and the successful attempt to plant varieties that bloom in succession to each other. These are just emerging now.

daffodil

 

While the deer nipped off a good 50% of these buds over the winter, the Viburnum carlesii still packs a floriferous punch with the blooms that survived the feast.

viburnum carlesii bloom

Viburnum carlesii

 

Phlox ‘Emerald Blue’ (Moss phlox) and Geranium ‘Espresso’ make a handsome couple don’t they?

geranium and phlox

Geranium ‘Espresso’ and Phlox ‘Emerald Blue’

 

The first blooms on the Forthergilla ‘Mt Airy’ have arrived and like so many others, they were nipped by the deer. It really is their world and we are just living in it.

fothergilla bloom

Fothergilla ‘Mt Airy’

 

Trollius ‘Golden Queen’ will be blooming soon and I will be on high alert to ensure they come to fruition, deer and rabbits be damned.

trollium buds

Trollius ‘Golden Queen’

 

I admittedly get a little too excited when the peonies emerge each spring. I know they are a given and tough sons o bitches, but they represent spring like no other.

peony emerging

Emerging peony

 

Great color on the emerging leaves of this Viburnum and I’m livid that I can’t remember the name Ninebark ‘Amber Jubilee’. I’ve failed my spreadsheet and I’ve failed you all.

viburnum foliage

 

The severely cut back Salix (Dappled Willow) looked like this 46 days ago.

pruning salix 3

And now looks like this.

salix hakuro nishiki

Holy recovery Batman. Looks like this will be an every other year necessity from here on out.

On the other hand, very few signs of life with the heavily pruned Redtwig Dogwood.

redtwig dogwood

Will continue to keep you all updated on this as we proceed through spring and into summer. Yes, it is that important.

 

 

Spring photos

Too busy to write too much today. Those ornamental grasses aren’t going to cut themselves down.

But I’ll share some photos with you that have me all jazzed up with the extreme exception of the last one.

Poison ivy is already spreading its pretty little wings all over the garden and we need to nip this in the bud sooner than later. Time to bring in the poison ivy whisperer, my wife.  

Enjoy.

crocus blooms 2

 

 

crocus blooms

 

 

tulip bud

 

 

tulip buds

 

 

daffodil bud

 

 

viburnum bud

 

 

poison ivy

Bulbs in containers

My soil drains poorly therefore my soil is almost always wet.

Most bulbs don’t like “always wet soil” therefore I struggle to grow bulbs.

I like bulbs in spring therefore I grow bulbs in containers.

tulips

A rather logical solution me thinks.

I tried growing tulips for a number of years when we first moved into our current home. I was out there each Fall digging to the proper depth, spacing them out accordingly and even feeding them a bit. And not once did I see a sign that any of them even thought about leafing out.

Even a dolt like me eventually figured out that they were rotting in the wet soil over the winter/spring. The daffodils and summer snowflakes have reliably come back year after year, but almost all other bulbs, including the tulips, have failed to thrive. Normally I would say “shit happens” or “it isn’t in the cards”, but my wife loved tulips and I needed to keep up the front that I was an all world gardener.

It didn’t take long to find the solution. A little bit of web research and I had my plan. Grow bulbs in containers where I could control the soil and ultimately, the drainage. Genius.

There were a few options on how to pull off growing bulbs in containers. I could bury the containers outdoors over winter. I could store the containers close against the foundation where they would stay warmer. I could store the containers inside my attached garage where it was warm enough to escape the brutal cold but cold enough for the bulbs to go through their appropriate cycle.

I opted for “garage” and haven’t looked back.

Seriously, it couldn’t be any easier. The bulbs are planted in your standard old potting soil at a shallower depth than is recommended on the package and are planted closer together than is suggested.

tulip-bulbs-container

I cover the bulbs with more soil, water them a bit and that is it. They go into the garage not to be thought of again until spring. No watering or anything else needs to be done.

The first signs of growth appear in early March and by the time they are 2-3 inches in height, I move them outdoors. If there isn’t enough water from the spring rains, I’ll water them regularly. That is it. I just let them do their thing.

I had these by mid April last year.

tulips1

Fast forward to this week and I realize I’ve completely forgotten about the four containers I had stowed in my garage. They were hidden out of view, which probably speaks volumes about the state of my garage organization. I immediately moved them outdoors, probably later than required as you can see by the amount of growth below.

bulbs in containers

bulbs in containers 2

Oh well, we’ll see how it goes.

If you want a lot more detail on growing  bulbs in containers, I suggest you click here. Really good stuff.

I am incorporating one process improvement this season and that is doing a better job of acclimating the bulbs in containers to the sun. In years past, after I’ve moved them from the garage, I’ve stuck them immediately into full sun. This year, all of the containers have been placed in a shaded location for most of the day and will then bump up the sun exposure over the next few weeks.

bulbs in containers 3

Wish me luck!

Spring reveals plant life

More severe snow melt this weekend, not to mention mega amounts of rain, and that made me a happy man. A lot of plant life was revealed as a result, both good and bad. Here is a sampling of what I found:

The Hyacinths are indeed on their way.
hyacinth

 

As are many of the daffodils.
daffodils emerging

 

I was pumped just to see the buds that have formed on the Lilacs.
lilac buds

 

As with last year, I’m planning on pruning back the old wood on the Ninebark ‘Diablo’.
ninebark winter

 

As It is now easier to identify the ‘older wood’ of the Ninebark by the grey color of the branches.
ninebark branches

 

The Tsuga ‘Moon Frost’ took a major hit this winter, most likely from those dang rabbits.
taxus

taxus eaten

 

Also taking a hit was Juniper ‘Gold Cone’, critter unknown.
juniper gold cone deer

 

I think I may have discovered a new breed of Boxwood, a nice brown and yellow variety.
boxwood dead

 

I am very thankful to see Boxwood ‘Wedding Ring’ remained unscathed.
boxwood winter

 

Nothing, I repeat nothing, could destroy my many Sweet Flag (Acorus).
yellow flag winter

 

And seeing the Sedum ‘Red Carpet’ fight though the ice was a most welcome sight.
sedum red carpet ice