Category Archives: bulbs

Autumn crocus for Fall Flowers

There’s nothing like a couple of to remind you that all things are possible with a bit of imagination. Recently I visited several inspiring gardens on the tour hosted by the Monterey Bay Master Gardeners here in our area and also saw some spectacular landscapes on the peninsula with APLD ( Association of Professional Landscape Designers ).  So many ideas-so little time. Here is just a sampling to get you started.

At one of the awesome gardens I visited, I was tickled to see a clump of autumn crocus blooming beneath some trees. This look alike of the true crocus provides a burst of brilliance in the fall just when you need it. Spring crocus are actually members of the iris family while autumn crocus or colchicum autumnale are members of the lily family. Native to the Mediterranean area and parts of Asia, they make dazzling patches of amethyst, mauve or white flowers in partial shade or full sun. The blooms last for a couple of weeks in late summer and early fall and the bulbs naturalize easily. These bulbs are also called meadow saffron but it is from one of their close relatives that expensive saffron spice is harvested.

Several months from now strap-like leaves will appear, growing to about a foot high, then die back- similar to naked lady bulbs.

Autumn crocus can be enjoyed outdoors or brought inside to grow in pots while they are flowering. You can even set bare corms in a saucer of pebbles like narcissus bulbs to enjoy the splendid flowers that quickly emerge.
Corms of these beauties are only available now during their brief dormant period. They make a fine addition to any garden.

At another garden, I saw a design trick that turned a mulched hillside into a path with just a couple of steps added. Paths not only get you from point A to point B, they can be part of the journey itself. In the upper part of this particular garden, the soil was mulched around the raised veggie boxes and the hillside below. A formal path with edging wasn’t needed here so a few flat stones installed as steps in just a couple of places directed you to a lower patio. The stone steps weren’t really needed but they gave the illusion of a path. Cost: maybe nothing if you can find some flat stones around the yard.

Everybody’s growing vegetables and herbs these days but not everyone wants to water and take care of a large vegetable garden. Enter the container gardening solution. In most of the gardens I visited, there were either raised beds or containers happily growing every herb and vegetable imaginable. Even the McMansion had a raised bed for growing edibles and flowers to attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, Think small, pick only your favorites to grow and enjoy the fruits of your labor with out all that much work.

There were so many wonderful ideas that I got from each of the gardens.  Where I met the owners, they were happy to share their ideas, techniques and even some cuttings.
 

Shade Gardening ideas

Many of us garden in the shade year round. Other have sun in the summer but shade from fall through spring as the sun’s arc becomes lower. Here are some encouraging tips for you if this describes your garden.

If you’re new to growing vegetables you may be discouraged that your tomatoes are still green. Fear not ! Tomatoes don’t need direct sunshine to ripen , they only need warmth. That’s why green tomatoes will ripen on a kitchen window sill. Don’t be tempted to prune leaves out of the way so whatever sunshine you do get can hit your tomatoes. This can sunburn the fruit if we get a hot day and the result will be a white spot that eventually turns black, hard and inedible.

What about bulbs in the shade? If you dream about drifts of colorful flowers under you trees in the spring but didn’t think they would bloom in the shade, think again . Some bulbs manage to grow just fine beneath trees-even evergreen trees. Many from the daffodil clan, including jonquils and narcissus will grow, bloom and naturalize year after year under tree canopies or other lightly shaded areas. Common ones to try are Golden Harvest, the classic, large yellow King Alfred daffodil and Dutch Master with pure gold flowers. Barret Browning has a soft. butter-yellow corolla and a pumpkin orange frilly tube.

To make sure your bulbs stand out in the landscape, figure at least 20-40 bulbs per drift. Be sure to pick up a sturdy, foot-operated bulb planter to better dig through surface roots and hard ground. In a time when money is short, naturalizing daffodils is an affordable way to grow more flowers and they’ll come back every year without losses from deer and gophers.

Squirrels, mice and moles, however, are observant and crafty. Once they discover newly planted bulbs, they’ll assume it’s food. Just disturbing the earth is a tip off for them. Daffodils and narcissus bulbs are unappetizing but if they dig them up and leave them exposed with just a nibble taken from them, so much for any spring flower display. Protect your bulbs with wire baskets or spray them with foul tasting repellent, letting the spray dry before planting. You can also bury the bulbs with ground up shells.

Planting bulbs along side a path makes for a beautiful look come spring. If you installed a flagstone or stepping stone path or sitting area this fall, now is the best between. Low, sturdy types that can withstand some foot traffic include blue star creeper for regularly irrigated area and creeping, woolly or elfin thyme for drier spaces. Make sure you have enough planting mix between the pavers for the plugs to grow. Fill the largest spaces first and allow them to spread into the little cracks. Mixing groundcover types looks great as long as they have the same water requirements. Low growing pennyroyal and corsican mint smell wonderful when you walk on them as does chamomile, although you need to mow this one occasionally to keep it neat and tidy.

Whatever you choose for your project this fall, you will love the look come spring.