Hyacinths, also called Spanish Blue Bells and available in pink, blue or white, establish themselves easily and will brighten up a Michigan yard around May. (Stock Xchange)
When Jack Frost comes to town to stay, it’s time to begin planting spring flowering bulbs. To prevent the bulbs from sprouting, the soil 4 to 6 inches deep should be 55 degrees or colder.
More then a decade ago my late partner Jeff Ball and I planted 1,000 daffodils on the rise that overlooks my English cottage, and they continue to multiply and put on a stunning show every spring.
It was our success with those daffodils that encouraged me take a leap of faith and I began planting other spring flowering bulbs in fall, many of which were new to me.
Because I share my landscape with rabbits, deer and all kinds or rodents, I choose bulbs these animals don’t eat.
Showy spring flowering Alliums, also called flowering onions, are a favorite and they fit the bill perfectly. From the short Allium schubertii, whose bloom clusters resemble fireworks, to the impressive tall big globe Gladiator, with its 8-inch cluster of umbels, there are more than three dozen varieties from which to choose.
Then there’s Camassia, with its 30- to 36-inch tall loose spikes covered with star-shaped flowers in shades of purple or white that make a stunning spring show when planted en masse. These Northwest American natives thrive in full sun and damp to wet soil and are deer-resistant. Left to their own devices, they will multiply and reseed.
Another Northwestern native, Brodiaea ‘Queen Fabiola,’ with purple umbels that resemble small Agapanthus pop up through the pea gravel at the edge of my walkway in early summer. Planting a few dozen of these small, inexpensive, easy-to-plant corms every fall is well worth the effort.
Hyacinthoides, also called Spanish Blue Bells, available in pink, blue or white, are another favorite that have successfully perennialized and multiplied at the edge of my woodland.
Gardening books recommend adding a bulb fertilizer or bone meal to the hole when planting bulbs, but chemical fertilizers can burn tender new roots and organic fertilizers and bone meal attract animals that dig up the bulbs.
I’ve planted hundreds of bulbs with great success and never used fertilizer when planting. Mother Nature provides all the nutrients inside the bulb for the first year of bloom and they find what they need in the soil from then on. In late winter or after the blooms fade, I sprinkle a handful of a natural fertilizer on the surface of the mulched bulb bed and it feeds the soil as it feeds the bulbs.
Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to Yardener.com and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnews.com/homestyle.