Tag Archives: deer resistant bulbs

Bulbs that Bloom in a Shady Garden

Many of us garden in the shade year round. Others have sun in the summer but shade from fall through spring as the sun’s arc becomes lower. Do you look at the fall bulbs for sale and think ‘Is there any hope that my garden might look like the pictures on the package come spring?” Here are some encouraging tips for you if this describes your garden.

Tulips growing in shade

If you dream about drifts of colorful flowering bulbs under your trees in the spring but didn’t think they would bloom in the shade, think again. Even if your entire garden is shady year round there is hope.

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.

Other common bulbs that will bloom in light shade are crocus, scilla, tulips, grape hyacinth, leucojum, snowdrops, chionodoxa and lily of the valley.

Gold Cup daffodils

To make sure your bulbs stand out in the landscape, figure at least 20-40 bulbs per drift. If your ground is hard or impacted by roots, be sure to pick up a sturdy, foot-operated bulb planter to make is easier to dig. 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 egg shells.

Mid-season tulips

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 time to plant groundcovers 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 bulbs you choose to try this fall, you will be happy you planted some bulbs come spring. And to help them bloom again the following year fertilize them at the time of planting with bulb food or bone meal worked into the soil a couple inches at the bottom of the hole. Mature bulbs respond to an early spring feeding with the same fertilizer.

 

Summer Bulbs

begonia_tuberousA couple of warm days and I'm ready for spring. Good thing the vernal equinox got the memo. Spring officially started March 20th. The longer days that we get during Daylight Savings Time makes my spring fever complete. I look at my garden and the Easter egg colored daffodils, narcissus, tulips and hyacinths and never want the show to end.  By planting summer bulbs now I can get just that.

Think of cutting brilliant flowers for bouquets during the summer, combining them with a couple stems of mother fern and a sprig of late flowering wisteria on the dining room table. There are so many summer bulbs to choose from and they live over to increase in size each year. Here are just a few of my favorites.

Tuberous begonias make a spectacular show in bright shade or a morning sun location. Their flowers are so huge and brightly colored they put on quite a show. Upright varieties are easy to grow in the ground if you have good drainage. Otherwise, either dig up the bulbs to overwinter in the garage or plant in pots that can be placed under an overhang to spend the winter with dry feet. Those jewel-toned hanging begonias start blooming during the summer and continue until fall. The 61st annual Begonia Festival in Capitola takes place over Labor Day weekend if you want to see them up close and personal.

At Easter time we see tall, white calla lilies blooming everywhere. They make great cut flowers and are deer resistant but I especially like the smaller colored varieties that bloom a little later in the spring and summer. Many years ago we were impressed with the yellow and pink ones that were being grown. Then came the rusty orange ones and now you can buy calla lilies in black, lavender, plum and flame red. I especially like a two-tone deep rose and burgundy one called Dark Eyes.

Dahlias are another deer resistant summer bloomer. One visit to the dahlia competition at the county fair and you'll be wanting several giant dinner plate dahlias in your own garden. Dahlia flowers come in many forms. Cactus dahlias have a starburst shape. Ball dahlias are large, perfect formal types that make superior cut flowers. Then there are dark-leafed varieties and powder puff dahlias as big as dinner plates. Karma dahlias were developed by the cut flower market in Holland because of their extraordinarily strong stems and almost iridescent colors.

Daylilies come in so many colors these days you'll run out of room in the garden for all of daylily_Always-Afternoonthem. There's a dark rose and burgundy variety with a yellow throat that I have my eye on called Always Afternoon. Daylilies provide long lasting color in the garden and naturalize easily. All are good cut flowers but be careful if you have cats. Some flower varieties are toxic for cats although they are non-toxic to dogs.

If you don't have any freesias in your garden you should. This fragrant flower blooms in March right along with the daffodils. The old-fashioned favorite, a white variety called freesia alba, has a rich sweet scent. Freesia hybrids come in all the colors of the rainbow and are deer resistant.

We've all gotten Stargazers lilies in a bouquet that seemed to last forever. Grow your own to bring inside during the summer. Salmon Star is an Oriental lily hybrid of the original Stargazer and equally beautiful. Asiatic lilies, Trumpet lilies, Tiger lilies also make good cut flowers and are easy to grow. Keep flowers away from cats. Dogs are okay.

Don't forget about adding some new gladiolas for that summer bouquet or deer resistant crocosmia in one of the new deep apricot and red combinations.  Or how about Ixia or African corn lily or brodiaea for the cutting garden?

Bulbs are super easy to grow. I always design some into a garden for their color and fragrance and you can, too.