The Seasons are Changing & It’s Time to Begin Burying Our Bulb Treasures …

September 16th, 2012 § 5 comments § permalink

A Tisket, A Tasket, A Basket Full of Narcissus . . .

Anticipation. True gardeners really know how to revel in the wait. We are, essentially, pleasure-delayers. Gardening differs from many modern-day activities in one significant way: it is not an instant gratification activity. Not at all. Gardeners do a lot of waiting, watching and wondering. And really, this waiting becomes a way of extending our pleasure; a key part of the fun. What will the new Narcissus smell like? Will the white Erythronium blossom at the same time as the rose-tinted Hellebore? How long will it take for the Muscari to form a blue pool of blossoms at the base of the stone wall? Will the voles eat all of the crocus this year? I like wondering about things. I love forgetting about a buried treasure and then, in spring, thrilling upon the re-discovery.

Patience. Gardening has taught me many things, and I would say that whatever patience I possess —and heaven knows I am not known for it— I developed through the practice of gardening. Working with nature helps me to balance my impulsive nature, and has —quite literally— made me a more grounded person. I have a fiery personality. The act of gardening calms me down and soothes my moods. I learned this in childhood, and perhaps that is why I feel so strongly about connecting children to the non-instant-gratification pleasure of gardening. Waiting six months for a tulip to bloom is the exact opposite of waiting a nano-second for a text message. And I think that is a good thing…

Crocus Petals Unfurling

The ritual of planting bulbs is, to me, a most delicious process. First, there is the hunting and then there is the choosing. Of course, the catalogues from fine companies, like Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, arrive in early summer, and I fill them with sticky notes and scribbles. Then —usually by mid-July— I begin filling my virtual carts online (the earlier you order, the better the deals). And oh, the wonderful, wonderful pleasure of selecting from amongst all of the beautiful, jewel-like treasures. With a garden as large as mine, I order most common bulbs in great quantity. But there are many opportunities for small-scale vignettes, showcasing those rare little surprises here as well; particularly in the Secret Garden.

Most spring-blooming bulbs perform best when planted after the soil has cooled to 50 degrees or lower (usually in mid-autumn here in VT) but before it has begun to freeze. (If your bulbs arrive earlier, store them in a cool, dry place until it’s time to plant). Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Winter aconites (Eranthus), trout lilies (Erythroniums), iris, and certain other corms, rhizomes, tubers and bulbs, (Galanthus for example) should be planted in late summer or very early autumn. Take care to give these species more time to establish. In fact some bulbs and corms, such as snowdrops (Galanthus), are best transplanted ‘in the green’ (meaning, they do very well when divided and transplanted in spring, after blooming). If you are new to the world of bulbs, pay close attention to the fine-print when selecting and ordering; taking care to research the cultural requirements of each species, to avoid disappointment…

Leucojum aestivum (Summer Snowflake) in the Secret Garden – This Gorgeous Flower Takes My Breath Away…

Scillia hispanica  (Spanish Bluebells) are Beautiful Both in a Vase and in the Garden, Planted Here with Companion Hosta, Emerging in May

Narcissus ‘Fragrant Rose’ in the Northwestern Garden, Beneath the Syringa ‘Mme. Lemoine’

When designing with bulbs —for myself of for my clients— I rely heavily upon my garden notes and photos, carefully taken the previous spring. I try to provide all plants, including bulbs, with their preferred, natural growing conditions. Most bulbs, particularly the Tulips and Daffodils, need good drainage. This is especially important in winter and again in the summer. So, I try to avoid low-spots in the garden, where water will settle. Other ephemerals, such as the woodsy Erythroniums, prefer a cool and shady spot in the garden. Snowdrops, Winter Aconites and Erythroniums do very well beneath the shadowy canopy of shrubs and trees. When planning a springtime bulb-show, it’s very important to remember that most bulbs will eventually go into summer dormancy. Companion planting is the most effective way to conceal withering bulb foliage (never cut foliage back until the bulb has completed it’s yearly cycle, your daffodils and other bulbs need to photosynthesize).  Some easy combinations to begin with: daffodils planted between day lilies on a slope, trout lilies (Erythronium) planted amongst coral bells (Heuchera), and bluebells planted between ferns or late-emerging hosta. There are many, many great combinations (see some pictured below). Some companies, including Brecks, Spring Hill, Dutch Gardens, Old House Gardens and Brent & Becky’s Bulbs, offer great companion suggestions. I encourage you to look back at your garden photos and notes, and experiment with perennial combinations all your own. Remember, the experimentation and surprise is part of the pleasure! Plant bulbs that prefer full-sun and good drainage with similar perennials, such as ornamental grass and day lilies. Find shady spots between broad-leafed perennial plants, shrubs and trees for woodland bulbs. You will be delighted with the results all season-long…

A Pool of Blue Muscari has Formed Around the Base of Dan Snow’s Retaining Wall. In summer, Sedum ‘Vera Jameson’ will Take Over the Show, Concealing the Yellowing Muscari Foliage, Until it Withers Away.

Narcissus ‘Snipe’ planted with Sedum, near the Base of the Secret Garden Steps. A nearby Daphne and emerging coral bells (Heuchera) will conceal the yellowing daffodil leaves as they die back later in dormancy.

A Common, Striped Crocus in Radiant Violet and Orange (from an unnamed bargain batch)

The Spike-Hair of Narcissus ‘Rip Van Winkle’, a Spontaneous Purchase from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, Always Makes Me Smile.  Daffodil Foliage Goes Yellow in Dormancy so I Plant Them Where They Will Disappear Between Perennials

Camassia quamash is an Early-Summer Blooming Beauty. I Love Using It in Meadow-Combinations with Ornamental Grass and Other Native Wild Flowers. Read More About This Beauty in My Post About Camassia Here.

Fritillaria, One of My Favorite Spring Flowers, Does Very Well When Planted in Ornamental Grass Gardens and Meadows

As the Snow Recedes, Crocus tommasinianus (aka ‘tommies’) Burst Forth from the Earth in a Luminous-Lavender Hue. Here Planted with Ground- Covering Heuchera Along the Entry Walk.

Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’ – If You Aren’t Careful, Snowdrops Can Become a Special Obsession All Their Own…

Chinodoxa luciliae gigantea – Glory of the Snow will Always Have a Special Place in My Heart. The Blue Flowers Bloom Very Early, and Multiply to Form Carpets. Low-Growing Chinodoxa Do Very Well Planted in Lawns (delay first mowing for best results) or Beneath Spring Blooming Shrubs and Trees. Imagine Them Combined with a Red Flowering Witch Hazel (such as H. x intermedia ‘Diane’)

Bulbs and Companions in the Secret Garden (Here, ‘Sterling’ Narcissus is planted with Euphorbia, Heuchera and Matteuccia pensylvanica beneath Stewartia pseudocamilla)

Bulbs and Companions in the Secret Garden (From left: Erythronium, Narcissus ‘Sterling’, Helleborus x hybridus ‘Royal Heritage Strain’, with Emerging Actaea simplex and ferns)

Erythronium (the species is also known by various interesting common names, from dog-tooth violet and turk’s cap to trout lily) in the Secret Garden. Read More About Erythronium by Clicking Back to a Special Post on These Hat-Like Spring Beauties, Here.

Muscari at the Base of the Secret Garden Steps in Early Spring. Note the Emerging Perennials, Surrounding the Blooming Bulbs.

Scillia siberica  (Siberian squill) Makes an Early Appearance Beneath Shrubs in the Entry Garden 

Bulbs and Companions form a Colorful Carpet Along the Secret Garden Entry in Early Spring. (Daphne ‘Carol Mackie’ is the fragrant, mounded shrub on the left, and lavender-blue Phlox divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume’ scents the air. Also here, Muscari, Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ and various Sedum)

Ground-Cover Companions for Bulbs Can Play with Foliage and Flower Contrasts. Here, Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ offers a bit of drama in this Secret Garden vignette when combined with Tiarella cordifolia (foam flower) and Leucojum aestevium (Summer Snowflake)

The Secret Garden in Early Spring: ‘Sterling’ Narcissus, various Euphorbia, Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’, Matteuccia pensylvanica, Tiarella cordifolia, Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’, Paeonia mouton x lutea ‘High Noon’, Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’, Helleborus x hybridus ‘Royal Heritage Strain’, all beneath Stewartia pseudocamilla

Pulmonaria saccharata ‘Mrs. Moon’, here in the central garden (planted with Alchemilla mollis) is a great companion plant for early bulbs…

Crocus Emerging from Winter-Dried Grass

For Springtime Dreams & Obsessions: Bulb by Ana Pavord

Garden Design and Installation: Michaela Medina Harlow

Stonework: Dan Snow

A Version of This Post First Appeared on The Gardener’s Eden in September 2010

Photography and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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From April Showers to May Flowers…

May 1st, 2012 § Comments Off on From April Showers to May Flowers… § permalink

Trout lily (Erythronium tuolumnense), Daffodils (Narcissus ‘Snipe’), Coral Bell Leaves (Heuchera americana) and Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume’). (Click here to read more about Erythronium)

Happy May Day! Here in Vermont, we begin the new month with a day of much-needed rain.

May is a busy month for gardeners. Thirty one days of planning, prepping, planting, weeding and harvesting early crops. Luckily, longer days make all of our harried, summer-time preparations possible. Temperatures in the northeast can still be quite chilly at this time of year and I always check the forecast on clear nights and protect tender plants when the mercury drops.

Still, as we steadily wind our way toward summer, the May nights grow warmer and sweeter. We shed our layers, kick off shoes and wiggle our bare toes in newly-mown grass. It’s May Day at last, and the gardener celebrates; dancing to the percussive beat of raindrops and the symphony of birds in springtime song…

Lovely, dark, Lenten Rose (Helleborus x hybridus ‘Royal Heritage Strain’) Blooms Along the Mossy Stone Wall (Click here to read more about the Lenten Rose)

Trout Lilies Blossom Amongst Fragrant Blue Woodland Phlox (P. divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume)

With Clusters of Pale, Pinkish-Hued Sisters Nearby (Helleborus x hybridus ‘Royal Heritage Strain’)

Pulmonaria saccharata ‘Raspberry Splash’ and Narcissus, Dance in the Wind-Driven Rain (Click here to read more about Pulmonaria)

The Return of Cooler Temps Extends the Bloom-Time of This Deliciously Fragrant Burkwood Viburnum (V. x burkwoodii ‘Mohawk’)

Creamy-White Witch Alder Blossoms (Fothergilla major ‘Mt. Airy’) and Golden Spicebush Buds (Lindera benzoin) Add Scent to the Damp, Thick Air. (Click here, and also here, to read more about season-spanning beauty of North American native Witch Alder, and click here to read more about North American native Spicebush)

And at the Secret Garden Door, a Water Bowl Catches Raindrops as They Bounce from the Mossy Rock

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photos, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions) are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Indoor Eden: Preparing & Chilling Bulbs For a Glorious Mid-Winter Display …

November 5th, 2011 § Comments Off on Indoor Eden: Preparing & Chilling Bulbs For a Glorious Mid-Winter Display … § permalink

Last Winter’s Forced Narcissus by the Front Door in February

My friend Eve recently said that autumn always makes her think of spring. I couldn’t agree with her more, and as I squirrel away hoards of daffodil, tulip, and hyacinth bulbs, my mind drifts to the scents, sights and sounds of late April and May. Winter is a long season here in the northeast, and come late February and March —when the grey days outnumber the blue— I know I’ll be longing for soft, damp earth on my fingertips and the fragrance of fresh flowers. So while planting spring-flowering bulbs outside in the garden, I always pot up a few dozen favorites —and begin chilling them early— for forcing indoors.

Though Most of My Bulbs are Planted Outdoors in Autumn, I Always Save Some for Forcing Indoors …

Click Here for Instructions on How to Force Narcissus in Decorative Stone

Pre-chilled, fragrant bulbs make wonderful holiday gifts —and this project is particularly fun to share with children— but you’ll need to start right away. Most spring flowering bulbs need at least 6 weeks of cold (10 or more is ideal for tulips, crocus, snowdrops and hyacinth). I like to force most bulbs in lightweight, recycled plastic pots with fast-draining potting soil (some bulbs can be forced in decorative stone or glass, click here for tutorial). When planting, you can combine bulbs with similar bloom times together, or plant one kind in each container and arrange them in combinations later. Once I settle the bulbs into their pots, I moisten the soil, cover the top with black plastic (secured with rubber band) and place them in my garden shed (protect bulbs from mice with wire mesh/cages if rodents invade your shed in winter). Any cold, dark place will work —under a deck, in a garage, cellar bulkhead, etc— the key is to keep the temperature below 40 degrees fahrenheit. If you have extra space in a spare refrigerator, you can chill bulbs in there as well. In order for the bulbs to develop roots, it’s important to keep them cold, dark and moist (but not soggy). I like to check on progress every week or so. Once the chilling period has passed, I uncover a few plastic pots each month, water them well and slip them inside decorative containers or baskets. I use polished stones, dried moss, grass or other attractive mulch to hide the top of the plastic pot and conserve moisture. Then, I set the containers out in a cool, bright room to enjoy the show. I always enjoy them on the dining table and by the front entry door. It’s so lovely to watch the green leaves unfold and delicate petals open. Click here for my previous post on forcing narcissus for further instructions and ideas; including how to force bulbs in polished stone.

A Pre-Planned Prelude to Spring!

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photos, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions) are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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To Every Thing, There is a Season … Preparing Garden & Shed for Winter Part One: Bulbs & Tubers

November 4th, 2011 § 6 comments § permalink

Cleaning and Preparing Pots & Tools for Winter Storage

Most years, by the time sleet and snow begin to fall, both my garden and home are well prepared for winter. By mid-November, my firewood is stacked, dahlias are boxed up, spring-blooming bulbs are planted and vegetable beds are neatly mulched with chopped leaves and clean straw. But this season’s early snow really took me by surprise. Even in New England, where we’re known for our unpredictable weather, who expects two feet of snow before Halloween? And now —with white drifts covering much of the garden— even though I’m actually well ahead of schedule, it suddenly feels as if I’ve fallen far behind. It’s only the first week of November, and I still have many chores to finish up! Fortunately —with frost-free ground and daytime temperatures in the high 50s— the snow is quickly receding!

Out go the bulbs (I’m planting extra Tulips this year — including long-standing favorites: Queen of the Night & Apricot Beauty— just for cutting)

I plant a large number of bulbs every fall, both for myself and for my garden design clients. Some early bloomers, like Galanthus, Eranthus and Erythronium for example, need extra time to settle in and are planted in late summer or very early autumn (or even better, in the case of Galanthus, transplanted in-the-green, after blooming). But I find that other springtime favorites —especially tulips and daffodils— perform best when planted in cooler soil, after a hard frost. Of course for some of us in the northeast, the first killing frost came in the form of a snow storm this year. That really threw a monkey wrench in my schedule! But no matter, there’s still plenty of time. In the next few weeks I’ll be digging more holes than my resident squirrels; planting daffodils, tulips and anything else I find on sale, until the ground freezes! In small spaces —or for dramatic effect— I often plant bulbs in layers (click here to see how), and I also buy extra bulbs to chill and force later on in winter (click here for tutorial).

And in come the Dahlias. Sweet dreams, my beauties …

In my cold climate, another unfinished garden chore, lifting and boxing up tender Dahlia tubers, needs to be completed over the next couple of weeks. Usually, I pull Dahlias two weeks after the frost, when their foliage has completely withered. But this season, my Dahlias were still blooming in late October, right up until the first snow (and if they could, I’m sure the Dahlias would be telling you that this year’s weather was all very strange and confusing). Yesterday I cut away the blackened remains of my beloved Karma Choc, Ferncliff Illusion, and other favorite Dahlias, and began lifting them (gently now, with fingertips and a bit of assistance from a trowel) from their pots. After shaking soil from Dahlias, I rinse and air dry the tubers for a day before nestling them into newspaper-lined cardboard boxes, filled with damp cedar shavings (I’ve stopped using peat moss for enviromental reasons). Once boxed up, I put my Dahlias to sleep on shelves in a cool, but not freezing part of my cellar (somewhere around 45 degrees is good).

And so now, I’m off to plant spring-blooming bulbs for my clients. Have you ever known a gardener to say that they planted too many? Impossible!

Although I’m Sad to See Many Things Go, There’s an Undeniable Beauty to Stark and Skeletal Winter

Canadian Geese on Departure

A Confetti Display of Leaves and Seeds in Melting Snow

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photos, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions) are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Silvery Heirloom Treasures for the Vase: Nodding Stars-of-Bethlehem …

June 6th, 2011 § Comments Off on Silvery Heirloom Treasures for the Vase: Nodding Stars-of-Bethlehem … § permalink

A late spring bulb for cutting: Nodding Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum nutans) sitting pretty in a vase by New Mexico artist Heidi Loewen

They are commonly called the Nodding Star-of-Bethlehem, and I think it may be the perfect name for this beautiful, silvery flower. Five autumns ago, with my late-spring cutting garden in mind, I ordered and planted a handful of these heirloom beauties (circa 1594) from Brent & Becky’s Bulbs, even though they are listed as only marginally hardy this far north (USDA Zones 5-8). And although the exotic looking little stars haven’t naturalized as they do in warmer locations (see warning & plant information at bottom of this post) they have returned each and every year; forming three small clumps near the studio foundation. Striking in the garden, to be sure, I actually prefer this green and white flower in a vase; where I can appreciate her subtle charms. Gathered in a porcelain vessel by New Mexico artist Heidi Loewen, I happen to think these silvery stars are just the picture of late spring loveliness…

Some flowers are even more striking in a vase than they are in a garden. To my eye, Ornithogalum nutans is just such a beauty

I like to display the Nodding Star-of-Bethlehem very simply, here gathered in a porcelain vase by New Mexico artist Heidi Loewen

Nodding Star-of-Bethlehem (Orinthogalum nutans) from Brent & Becky’s Bulbs

The beautiful, sea-green vase by New Mexico artist Heidi Loewen was purchased on a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1999. The Orinthogalum nutans bulbs were purchased from Brent & Becky’s Bulbs. And although neither source is an affiliate of The Gardener’s Eden, I am a happy customer of both.

***Nodding Star-of-Bethlehem (Orinthogalum nutans) is native to Europe and Asia and although it is not currently on the USDA invasive plant/noxious weed list, it has been reported as potentially invasive in certain Mid-Atlantic states (Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC & Virginia) and in some counties of other states, including Washington state. Please note: this species should not be confused with Orinthogalum umbellatum (African origins) which is on the USDA noxious weed list and is widely reported as invasive in natural areas.***

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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