Tag: spring-blooming bulbs

Marking bulb plantings

Autumn sends northern gardeners’ thoughts to spring when bulbs cheerily bloom and chase away a gardener’s winter doldrums. But when planting groups of spring-blooming bulbs, how do you mark their location?

When I first began planting bulbs, I had smaller gardens with fewer plantings making it easy to recall where I dug in each grouping. Through years of adding bulb plantings to my expanding gardens, it became harder to keep track of the exact location of each bulb group. Many springs I surprised myself by forgetting about the location of a previous autumn’s bulb planting. This is not a bad thing, but it’s not exactly good gardening practice. Then, after accidentally digging into a group of bulbs during one of my many perennial bed rearranging spurts, I began marking each bulb planting in some way.

The obvious labeling option is to stick a plant tag into the ground towards the rear of each grouping. I suppose this works for botanical gardens and/or really, really organized gardeners using special metal plant markers, but such markers become quite an investment. Less expensive wooden or plastic plant tags either decay or break and I’m just not a fan of the sight of plant tags sticking out of perennial beds during snow-less winter months. Besides, I’m not that organized!

This led to a different obvious marking method … rocks. In New England we ‘grow’ as many rocks as anything, so encircling each planting with rocks became my go-to method. Flat rocks nicely mark bulb plantings when bulb foliage is no longer visible. Rocks blend into summer-blooming plantings. Rocks are free and abundant. Plus it’s easy to expand a rock circle outward as bulb groupings expand in size.

Spring bulb planting marked by a circle of flat rocks.

Spring bulb planting marked by a circle of flat rocks.

My absolute favorite method, though, uses re-purposed metal bands from no longer usable barrels … yep, those half-barrels sold as planters. The circular bands that once held wooden barrel slats in shape are perfect bulb-planting markers in my gardens.

Spring bulb planting marked with a re-purposed metal barrel band.

Spring bulb planting marked with a re-purposed metal barrel band.

The bands clearly mark bulb plantings, stay in place and don’t break or decay. The bands virtually disappear from view as neighboring perennials grow and, since I like to use old garden tools as garden ornaments, the rusty, old barrel bands fit right into my garden design style.

And while on the subject of planting bulbs … for the most look-at-me impact, plant bulbs in groupings of 5 to 10 bulbs per planting hole. Please avoid planting a row of one bulb in one hole. They’ll end up looking like a bunch of schoolchildren lined up to head to the lunch room.

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Bulbs to Plant, Bulbs to Store; Avoiding a Gardening Oops.

Welcome to December and the monthly Gardening Oops … the GOOPs confessional. On the first of each month, here at joene’s garden, it’s time to fess up a GOOPs, a garden-related miss-step or downright mistakes. The December 2012 GOOPs theme is too much to do, too little time, all revolving around bulbs and tubers.

Autumn is planting time for spring-blooming bulbs.  My order of Hyacinthoides (Spanish Bluebells), Camassia quamash, Dutch Iris, and two varieties of Crocus tommasinianus arrived and promptly went to the garage for safe keeping until planting.

The hyacinthoides and Camassia found permanent soil-based homes a week ago, with the helping hands of three-year-old granddaughter Avery – her first experience helping grandma plant bulbs.

Not so for the iris and crocus. They remain packaged in the garage.


Does this qualify as a GOOPs? Not yet. Even in December, in southern Connecticut, it’s not too late to plant spring-blooming bulbs, provided the ground has not yet frozen solid. The predicted warm weekend temperatures should entice me to plant these beauties outside.  If not, they’ll be planted in pots and stored in the garage or the cold stairwell of the basement hatchway. With a bit of soil moisture, and a few weeks of the cold temperatures bulbs need to sprout, late winter should bring new growth.  A third, least desirable, option is storing the bulbs in paper bags in the refrigerator to pot up later. Though never trying the refrigerator storage thing myself, it’s purported to work.

Another bulb to-do: properly storing the canna bulbs. Cannas are a bit too cold-intolerant to survive outside through zone 6 winters. Rarely do I take on a plant/bulb that requires extra care to survive Connecticut weather, but a friend shared these cannas last spring. They grew beautifully all summer in large clay pots in full sun, needing little more than regular water, so now I’m hooked. Removing the bulbs from their pots was quite a chore but, after yanking, tugging, and forcing the bulbs from the soil, they went into a cardboard box in the garage to let the soil dry. And, there they sit.


According the the video below, all that’s needed now is to place them in a paper bag, move them to the warmer, but still cool, basement, and check them occasionally to make sure they are not too dry.

Canna care

Time will tell whether this canna experience becomes a GOOPs … they may just survive my neglect to grow in potted homes again next summer.

The last bulb … well, actually tuber … left on my to-do is horseradish.


The tubers, dug from the ground, shaken free of as much soil as possible, and left in a cardboard box to dry and cure now need remaining soil brushed off. Then, after washing and peeling, they will be food-processor ground.  It takes some doing to turn these unattractive, fresh dug horseradish roots into an edible condiment, but the sweetness of the finished product makes it worthwhile.

Tick-tock, tick-tock … all I need is time.

Do you find time lacking in your gardening life?  You can share your tale of time-woe, or confess another type of GOOPs, in a comment below or on your blog … just leave a link and a teaser comment below.

Don’t be shy. All gardeners have GOOPs. If you’ve not made mistakes, you are not gardening hard enough.

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