Marianne Binetti — Time for bulbs


The second week of November is my favorite week to plant bulbs. By now there is no use putting up with the water-logged geraniums, frost-bitten petunias and other dying annuals in your beds and pots so out with the old and moldy and in with beautiful bulbs.

If you’re a lazy gardener like me, you can do things the easy way with these 5 bulb-planting tips:

1. Use a big shovel, dig a wide hole. I don’t bother with a hand trowel or bulb planter because I like my tulips, daffodils and hyacinths to bloom in big happy families, crowed close together for broad sweeps of spring color. This look is easiest to achieve with a shovel. Pull up the annuals then dig into the soft soil creating holes at least one foot by one foot wide and six to seven inches deep. The general rule of green thumb is to plant your bulbs three times as deep as their width, so setting daffodils and tulips six inches underground is deep enough. Go ahead and cram 15 or 20 bulbs into the same hole.

2. Make a blooming lasagna with layers of bulbs and soil. I do run out of vacant spots to add my bulbs even after pulling up the annuals. This is when I add a layer of soil on top of the large bulbs and then pile in smaller bulbs like crocus, anemone and snowdrops. These smaller bulbs go into the same planting hole as the deeper planted tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. This way you get bulbs that bloom in shifts.

3. Treat your tulips like annuals. My life became so easy once I accepted that tulips do not want to come back year after year in my garden. Blame the voles, my soil, too much summer water or the overcrowding in the planting hole, but once you accept that tulips will be beautiful the first spring after planting and ugly or non-existent after that, then adding tulip bulbs to your landscape every fall becomes a lovely way to celebrate the change of seasons. A few tulip bulbs cost less than a latte — and right now spring blooming bulbs are on sale. Just grow for it.

4. Many happy returns with loyal little dwarfs. I’ve got more than seven varieties of dwarf bulbs in my garden and they all return year after snow white year. The secret is to put these small bulbs in well drained soil away from a sprinkler system that would keep the soil moist all summer. Bulbs need to dry out and go dormant to return or naturalize. Tête-à-tête and February Gold dwarf daffodils, all types of crocus, snowdrops, and wind flowers are some of the short but dependable spring bloomers that flower even in the cool and shady parts of my garden. They really put on a show if I remember to bait for slugs.

5. Fill your pots with left over bulbs. No need to have sad looking patio pots and window boxes in March and April. Yank out the annuals and replant with bulbs now. Deeper pots can handle the larger bulbs that like at least six inches of soil on top of their heads. Window boxes and small pots can accommodate the small or minor bulbs that will bloom when planted just two inches deep.

Remember that a bulb is a prepackaged flower already formed. You don’t need to fertilize after you plant, water them or even offer fertile soil. Just bury these treasures and you’ll enjoy spring jewels.

Marianne Binetti is a syndicated columnist.