Tag Archives: bulbs

Fall Bulbs for Spring Color

14 Sep

By Stacie Palmer of Dennis’ 7 Dees

September through November is THE time to plant bulbs for a succession of color next spring. Ideally, you’ll get your bulbs in the ground before it becomes sopping wet, and in time for root set prior to winter arriving. Why do we plant bulbs now? Spring-blooming flowers that come from bulbs need a period of cooling in order to flower; alas, NOW!

When selecting flower bulbs, choose as many as you have the space and energy to plant! When it comes to bulbs, more (versus less) is the key to big color and presence in spring. Inspect each bulb for a solid, healthy appearance, free of mold. Ideally you will get them planted as soon as possible after you make your purchase. Because life happens, plan to store your bulbs in a cool, dark place until you have the opportunity to dig.

Prior to planting, your soil will need to be enriched/amended . . .don’t skip this step! Work compost into the first 12-18 inches of soil—this is the amending part. You’ll also need on hand fish bone meal and/or Dr. Earth Bulb formula. Plan for about 2 cups bone meal for every 10 square feet of bed space. If using Dr. Earth Bulb formula, follow package directions. (In the spring a water soluble fertilizer solution may be used just when shoots emerge, then no more fertilizing).

The general rule of thumb when planting bulbs is to plant them two to three times deeper than the bulb is tall, with the pointed end UP. Regarding method of planting, you can either use a bulb digger or prepare large areas in which bulbs will be placed together. If some bulbs need to be planted deeper than others, no problem! Simply create mounds of soil within the larger hole, so that the more shallow bulbs are raised up to their needed soil depth. Another method is to simply toss your bulbs in the air, and plant them where they land. Not only is that fun, it also results in a more naturalistic look.

Equally important when planting bulbs is to provide them with nutrients, specifically a good source of phosphorous. For proper root and shoot development bulbs need phosphorous. Most commonly used is bone meal. This component is mixed into the soil just below where the bulb is placed. An alternate to bone meal is Dr. Earth Bulb formula (see above).

Whatever method you choose, once bulbs are placed at the appropriate depth, fill in the hole with soil, then water just enough to support root growth. A word of caution: over-watering newly planted bulbs puts them at risk of rotting long before they have the opportunity to bloom. This is also why you must take the time to amend your soil with compost: improve drainage.

The final step is to apply 2”-3” of mulch over the newly planted bed. Not only will the mulch help maintain optimal moisture level within the soil, it also minimizes fluctuation in soil temperature. Exception (there’s usually one, right?!): small, early blooming bulbs (such as Galanthus/snowdrops)—either apply a thin layer of mulch, or skip it entirely.

Go ahead, plan now to take advantage of bare spots in your beds that will be under trees and shrubs once they’ve lost their leaves. That’s prime real estate for bulb planting! Can’t wait until spring to see the blooms? Plant autumn flowering crocus (Crocus sativus ‘Saffron’) NOW! These sweet little lilac purple flowers each produce 3 fancy red stigmas, which is the source of saffron. Plant a couple dozen of them and harvest enough saffron to use in a few delicious meals.

Careful planning will result in bodacious blooms from January to June! Better yet, nearly all of the bulbs we commonly grow in our area are deer resistant! Round up your compost, shovel or bulb digger, bone meal, and fresh spring blooming bulbs. . .it’s planting time!



Cut your fresh flower budget: Grow Dahlias!

3 Jul

By Nicole Forbes of Dennis’ 7 Dees

‘Thomas Edison’

‘Red Pygmy’

My first real experience with dahlias was from a woman who sold fresh cut bouquets for $5 at a place near where I worked.  My first ‘splurge’ on a bouquet turned into a second and then a third.  Before long I had bargained with myself to skip my daily coffee shop visit and replace it with the weekly pleasure I got from my purchase of a fresh-cut bouquet of flowers (and a few extra new vases).  As a natural progression I began to pursue catalogs from dahlia growers, look for dahlias on my trips to garden centers, and eventually purchased a few for my own garden.  Many years have passed now; those first few plants have long gone to the compost pile but I have rarely had a time since when there was not at least one dahlia in my garden and usually more than that.


With thousands of plants to choose from why would someone plant a dahlia?  The simple answer is for the heart-stopping, jaw-dropping flowers that begin in mid-late summer and last into fall.  The plants make a stunning addition to your garden and also produce fantastic flowers for cutting.  Cut in the cool morning or evening, place cut stems in 2-3” of very hot water (160-180 degrees) and allow to cool for one hour.  Cut flowers can last 5-7 days inside.  Available in a multitude of colors, shapes and flower sizes, and from low-growing border plants to 6 foot tall background plants, there is a perfect dahlia waiting for almost any sunny vacancy in your garden.  Notice I mention ‘sunny’ location; dahlias are fairly easy to grow but require excellent drainage and need at least 4-6 hours of sun.

Hardy in USDA zones 7-11, dahlias are prone to freezing and/or rotting over the winter if planted in heavy clay or poorly drained soil.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, some people dig their tubers up for winter storage, yet some prefer to leave them in the ground.  Potted dahlias can be tipped on their sides, collected into sheltered areas or buried (heeled) into garden soil for extra protection.  I have never dug my tubers up for the winter and have only lost a few plants from winter kill over the last 15 years (I am also the kind of person who puts  a “dry clean only” item in the washing machine on delicate just to see if it comes out ok).  If you dig them up or if have purchased new tubers, wait until May to plant them in the ground, use a low nitrogen fertilizer like 5-10-10 at planting time and again about a month later.  Dahlias are fairly heavy feeders and do best with a regular supply of fertilizer.  Begin to apply a water-soluble ‘bloom’-type solution about one month before they begin to set buds, and continue feeding every 3-4 weeks through the growing season.  As the tender new leaves emerge protect them from slugs; they love dahlias almost as much as you and I do!  When young plants grow to about a foot tall pinch back the new growth to produce more branching, this would also be a good time to stake the plant to support all of its future blooms.  When installing your stake take caution to avoid skewering the tuber.

“Melody Dora”


I have seen ‘wild’ dahlias growing in Mexico where the genus is native to; anthropologists believe they were grown and revered by the Aztec people centuries ago.  Nearly 50,000 named varieties of dahlias are registered worldwide and there are 35 native species that can be found growing in the highlands of Mexico and Central America.  Stop in to one of our garden centers to see what varieties make you swoon.

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