Monday, April 24, 2006

Bulbs: a progress report

We planted our bulbs in the fall. I, armed with a bulb planter, took care of the Dutch Iris, Anemone, Jonquil and Grape Hyacinth bulbs. While the Mister took shovel in hand and dutifully dug a trench where we layered Tulip, Daffodil and Crocus bulbs. A master gardener I had the good fortune of meeting proposed this scheme and further advised that we point our bulbs in different directions so as to prolong the overall bloom. Well, it's all worked very well thus far. First the Crocus popped up-– yellow blooms followed by white and purple ones. As soon as they faded, up came the Daffodils followed closely behind by red Tulips. Now that the Daffodils have faded, yellow Tulips have kindly stepped in to take their place.

Also in fall, in the same bed where we planted the Crocus, Daffodil and Tulip bulbs, we tossed around some wildflower seed. The company from whom we mail-ordered the bulbs promised a seamless transition-– meaning that as the bulbs fade the wildflowers will spring into action masking the old foliage as the bulbs loll about nourishing themselves. This is looking less and less likely in my garden. The few seedlings I do have will not outpace my Tulips' decline-– already the Tulips are looking a little pooped.

Now speaking of bulbs and that rule about not cutting the leaves... My Dutch Irises were the first to appear this season. Thanks to a mild January, they were up early, just in time for a fluke February snowstorm. Well, one hard lesson I've learned is that early to rise does not mean early to bloom... or make that, does not mean they'll bloom at all. I have 25 splendid Iris stalks (which means all 25 bulbs are accounted for!) that are beginning to yellow at the tips now thereby confirming that there will be no purple and yellow blossoms this year. Sigh.

So here are my questions... Why oh why didn't they bloom? I heard that mail-order bulbs don't always bloom the first year. I've also heard too much nitrogen can over-promote the green stuff at the expense of blooms. And since I used Milorganite both when planting the bulbs and in the early spring, I'm wondering if I overdid it. Our local nursery advised me to use the Milorganite. But now that I've researched it further I see that it's heavy on nitrogen (6-2-0), so now I'm wondering if that was not the best advice. Of course, I'm also wondering if the freaky late-winter weather is the culprit. Could the snow have stunted their bloom? And finally, can I cut back the leaves yet? The rule, as I understand it, is to cut them back 6 weeks after the flowers have faded. So, without any flowers as a benchmark, when can I cut them?
Please advise!

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