bulbs

Fall Savings on Spring Flowers

Fall Savings on Spring Flowers

By Lois Hole

One of the best ways to save money on spring-flowering bulbs is to choose top-quality varieties that naturalize.

Bulbs that naturalize spread from a single plant into many, producing more flowers each year from a single planting. Species-type tulips, for example, do this, while hybrid tulips tend to fade out after a few years, and new ones need to be added in order to continue the spring floral show. Species tulips, on the other hand, will spread to the extent that eventually you may want to divide and replant some of them in another area of the garden.

Hardiness is another factor to keep in mind. All crocuses naturalize, but the large-flowering Dutch types will not survive unless provided with a protected location in the garden, such as in a east or west-facing bed against the house. The early-blooming wild crocuses, however, can be planted anywhere in the yard. The species Chrysanthus often blooms while snow still reamins in shaded areas of the garden.

Daffodils and narcissus also naturalize. Keep in mind, though, that with novelty types with pink, ruffled or double blooms, you are trading stunning flowers for hardiness. The small-flowered, rock-garden types of narcissus are also very hardy, and have fragrant, long-lasting blooms.

Offset Cheery, bright yellow daffodils with the blue flowers of grape hyacinths (Muscari) and Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum). Star-of-Bethlehem bears dense clusters of white or blue starry flowers on long-stems.

Squills are another hardy spring delight. Siberian Squills (Scilla) survive for years and years, and march through the garden with clusters of star-shaped, intensely blue flowers on thin stems.

The Striped or Lebanon Squill (Puschkinia) is a striking bulb with clusters of bluish-white flowers that hug its stems. Thin stripes of bright blue divide each petal.

The Checkered Lily (Fritillaria meleagris) has extravagantly checkered flowers in bronze, rose or white. This bulb is also known as the Snake’s Head Lily, for its slender, twisted stems rising about narrow leaves, like snakes dancing to a charmer’s tune. When the solitary flowers appear, the stems straighten out, and the flowers nod above like large bells, with their distinctive checkered pattern resembling that of snake skin.

The earliest bloomers are Snow drops (Galanthus), white flowers nodding above grassy clumps of leaves; Snowflakes (Leucojum), small, delicately-scented, white bells nodding flowers with petal tips spotted bright green; Glory-of-the-Snow (Chionodoxa), stalks of tiny flower clusters in pink, solid white or white-eyed blue; and Winter Aconite (Eranthis), usually the earliest of all, with yellow buttercup-like flowers that pave the garden in sunshine almost overnight.

Plant your bulbs now (September), to allow them time to grow roots before winter’s cold sets in. In a warm year, bulbs can successfully be planted until fairly late fall, but the later that you leave it, the more chance you are taking with the weather. Be sure to water well when planting late.

Bulbs tend to look most natural and produce a more spectacular splash of colour in odd numbered groups of five to ten or more, and in clumps or drifts rather than straight lines.

As a rule of thumb, plant bulbs three times the depth of their height, and twice their diameter apart. For example, bulbs which are two inches (5 cm (high and one inch (2.5 cm) across, should be planted six inches (15 cm) deep, measured from the base of the bulb, with two inches (5 cm) between each bulb. The pointed end must be up or they will not grow.

Mix in 1 tsp of Earth Alive Soil Activator and 1 tbsp of Bone Meal into each planting hole when setting in the bulbs to help roots become established more quickly.

In late spring, allow foliage to wither and die back, as that is when the bulbs are storing the energy that they need in order to bloom the following season. Give them an added boost with a shot of water-soluble fertilizer with a high middle number, such as 10-52-10. Use other plants such as daylilies or irises to hide the withering leaves.

Unusual Bulbs Spice Up the Garden

Unusual Bulbs Spice Up the Garden

By Marlene Willis

Gladioli, dahlias, lilies, begonias, elephant ears, cannas and calla lilies are among the most popular spring bulbs. Most gardeners are familiar with these beautiful species and routinely plant them each spring for a beautiful show of summer colour.

But there are many other exotic summer-flowering plants, available in their dormant state as bulbs just waiting for plant enthusiasts to apply their magic touch. With the provision of suitable temperatures and adequate moisture, plants native to countries such as South Africa, India, Mexico and the Mediterranean can burst forth into bloom in the temperate garden.

Creative Container

One of our greenhouse staff, Jenyse Green, used the African lily (Agapanthus) as a feature in this container. Atop the lily’s tall (60-75 cm) stalks were clusters of deep blue, star-shaped flowers. Blue lobelia, vinca ivy and Mexican heather spilled over the edge of the pot, creating an impressive display. Even when the lily finished blooming, the seed head remained interesting and attractive. A similar effect can be achieved by planting Brodiaea instead of Agapanthus, although Brodiaea is somewhat shorter. Agapanthus is native to South Africa and enjoys full sun and well-drained, moist, organic soil.

The Pineapple Lily

The pineapple lily (Eucomis) is another interesting spring bulb, native to South Africa. This is an apt name for this bulb, as a cylindrical stalk of starry blooms is capped with a tuft of green leafy bracts that resemble a pineapple. There are two varieties available: Eucomis bicolor has pale green flowers with lilac edges, while Eucomis comosa has pale pink flowers tinged with green.

The pineapple lily is an excellent replacement for the traditionally used dracaena spike as a focal plant. The flower stalk is attractive, long-lasting and an attention-seeker. This bulb can be grown in the garden or in containers.

Poppy Anemones

If rich, vibrant colours are needed to punch up the landscape, try incorporating some poppy anemones (Anemone coronaria). There are single and double varieties in a wide range of bold colours, most with a contrasting black centre.

These anemones originate around the Mediterranean Sea in southern Europe. They like a warm, sheltered, sunny location and light, sandy soil, and you should hydrate the corms before planting by soaking them in water overnight. Use in borders or containers. The blooms make excellent cutflowers that last about a week.

A Neglected Palette

The selection of underused but gorgeous spring bulbs is vast. Members of Hole’s staff have enjoyed growing many unusual bulbs in their own gardens, including Mexican Shell Flower (Tigridia), Peacock Gladiolus (Acidanthera), Peruvian Daffodil (Hymenocallis), Summer Hyacinth (Galtonia) and Crocosmia, to name just a few. Bring the exotic colours and textures of faraway places home by planting some of these unusual choices this spring!

Podcast: Fall Bulbs - Jim Hole's Top 5 Tips

Are you wondering about planting fall bulbs but couldn't make it out to one of Jim's FREE talks? Well, you're in luck! Jim Hole has recorded a fall bulb podcast on the Hole's Radio Network, available here.

In this episode of the Hole's Radio Network, Jim Hole chats with Brad Walker—the reluctant gardener—about the top 5 things everybody needs to know about fall bulbs: from the right way to plant them, to the right time, and some secrets on what makes them bloom.

Play it below or download it by clicking here and, when you're done checking it out, please let us know what you think (by replying in the comments below). Also, let us know if you'd like to see more podcasts or video tutorials in the future.

"Bulb Empowering"

When I hear the term "forcing" bulbs, I usually envision someone holding a flower bulb over a compost bin and yelling, "This is your last chance dammit! Bloom or I’m dropping you in."
 
But the term "bulb forcing" really hasn’t arisen out of any ill feelings towards bulbs. It’s used simply to describe a technique where one schedules flower bulbs to bloom within a particular time frame.
 
Amaryllis, Narcissus and Hyacinth are examples of forced bulbs that are commonly grown in our homes. At the greenhouses, we have a bunch that are quite content to sit dormant in boxes on our store shelves and wait patiently for customers to pot them for forcing indoors.
 
Each variety of forcing bulbs has its own "weeks to flower" schedule, based largely on its genetic make-up. Bulbs like Narcissus bloom quickly once potted-up, while Hyacinth and Amaryllis take a bit longer to display their gorgeous flowers.
 
Flowering times can be sped-up or slowed-down, somewhat, by manipulating temperatures. Cool temperatures delay flowering while warm temperatures reduce the time to flower.

Beyond their beauty, what I really like about forced bulbs is that they require so little care. The growers who have carefully nurtured them have already done most of the work. All I that I have to do is drop them into pots, add water, and enjoy.
 
Come to think of it, given that potting up a bulb is such a gentle and nurturing activity, coupled with our modern sensitivity to labeling things, perhaps its time to replace the harsh term "bulb forcing" with something like "bulb empowering".
 
Maybe "bulb emancipation" is an even better phrase, since we liberate the bulbs from their dry packages and transplant them into warm, moist, potting soil. Or perhaps consider "Manipulation of florogenesis of geophytes" if plant science is your thing.
 
Hmm… with some sober second thought, I think "bulb forcing" sounds just fine.

~Jim Hole
 

Growing Fall Bulbs In Pots

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When it comes fall planting, most people think of planting tulips into flowerbeds around the house or in the garden.
 
But here is something a bit different that you might want to try with your tulips this fall. Rather than planting your tulip bulbs into the ground, plant them into pots. I’ve done this for years because it is simple as can be, plus I have a blaze of colourful flowers long before anything else is transplanted outside.
 
Now, not everyone can put tulips into pots because one needs some free space and a cold storage area. But if you have garage or storage shed that is cold during winter (anything around the freezing mark but not down into the minus 20s!) and a bit of extra space, then you’re set. You’ll have tulips poking through the soil in March.
 

Here are the step by step instructions for very early spring tulips:

  • Choose a pot. I like bigger pots but smaller are just fine.
  • Add good quality potting soil to the pot. Garden soil is too heavy and dense, plus it often contains too many weed seeds.
  • Fill the pot to within about 15 cm of the top of the rim.
  • Place the tulip bulbs on the potting soil with the "pointy part up". Put lots of bulbs into the pot for a really good spring show. I like to plant the bulbs about 3cm apart.
  • Cover the bulbs completely with potting soil leaving a few centimeters of space below the rim so that the pot can be easily watered.
  • Water the pot thoroughly and then place it in a warm spot for at least 2 weeks to allow roots to develop. The rooted bulbs will not bloom, after rooting, until their "chilling requirement" has been met, which is equivalent to about a month or so of freezing to near freezing temperatures.
  • Once the bulbs have received their chilling requirement, they are ready to bloom. The trick at this point is to keep the tulips cold until you are ready to place them outside. If you warm the bulbs too early, the shoots will pop out of the potting soil and become floppy and die. I keep my tulips cold until about the 3rd week of March and then I place them on my deck and give them a good shot of water. If it does freeze outside even after the tulip shoots have emerged they won’t be harmed.


Usually, this pot planting technique allows me to enjoy tulips in early April - a good month before the regular garden tulips begin to bloom.
 
So if you have some extra cold space in your garage or cellar, give potted tulips a try. It really is a thrill to see tulips popping out of pots when there is still a foot of snow on the ground.

~Jim Hole

Location, Location, Location

This past week, I chatted with a group of ladies who were all frustrated with their failure to get tulips to grow in their yards. All of them were great gardeners, but none of them could get a single tulip to poke out of the soil, let alone bloom. 

After I asked the ladies the standard tulip questions, it was quite apparent that they had done everything correctly, and there was no apparent reason why they shouldn’t have had a glorious bed of tulip flowers.

Finally, I asked where they were growing their tulips thinking, perhaps, that they were growing them in a container and that the bulbs were freezing solid during the winter.

But the answer to that question was the last one I had expected. One of the ladies looked me in the eyes and simply said: Jamaica. 

Jamaica? This one word answer instantly solved the problem.

Since tulips require several weeks of near freezing temperatures before they have the capacity to bloom, tropical Jamaica cannot provide the chilling required to transform a bulb to a flower. Since chilly weather in Jamaica is anything below, say, 20C, the bulbs were simply incapable of flowering. 

In countries that lack cold weather, aficionados of plants like tulips have few choices but to place the bulbs in refrigerators for a number of weeks so that the chilling requirement of the bulbs is met. Once the bulbs are placed outside after their big chill, they will develop leaves and flowers as they would in more northerly climates. However, while the pre-chilled bulbs in growing in tropical climates emerge from the soil, the tropical heat shortens the blooming period and they never last as long as they do in more northerly climates.

I explained to the ladies – with tongue firmly in cheek - that, unfortunately, Jamaica didn’t have a very good climate. 

Funny, they didn’t share my point of view.


~Jim Hole

Summer Blooming Flower Bulbs

If you’re looking for stunning blooms in your garden this year, now is the time to plant those bulbs!

There are lots of fantastic options to choose from, such as such as gladioli, callas, dahlias, lilium, tuberous begonias, and crocosmias. When it comes to summer blooming bulbs, you've got choice!


Here are a few of our favourites. Each of these will bloom at slightly different times and complement each other, giving you a gorgeous display all the way from early to late summer:

lilium-mysterious-blend-bulbs-edmonton-stalbert-holes

 Lilium – Mysterious Blend (Liliaceae)  – An early-summer bloomer, this is a great new mix on an old favourite. “Mysterious Blend” is a stunning mix of Asiatic lilies with flowers of the purest white mixed with flowers of the deepest purples and reds.

 
The flowers feature glossy petals that are firm and long-lasting in cut flower arrangements, or as a surefire way to add dramatic colour to your garden.


Lilium prefer full-sun to partial-shade, and grow 90-150cm tall.


calla-royal-majesty-bulbs-edmonton-stalbert-holes


Calla – Royal Majesty (Zantedeschia aethiopica) –  A mid-summer bloomer, Callas have a certain air of elegance like no other flower. Their unique cup- shape, upright sword-like leaves, and vivid colours are a favourite for both gardeners and florists alike! 


The “Royal Majesty” mix is a gorgeous blend of whites, pinks and purples. These cool tones will certainly be the focal highlight of your garden.


Perfect for container gardening, or used as a border in your garden, Callas are surprisingly easy to grow. Enjoying full sun to partial shade and growing 30-91cm tall.


Dahlia-myrtles-folly-bulbs-edmonton-stalbert-holes

Dahlia – Myrtle’s Folly (Dahlia fimbriata) A late-summer bloomer, it’s hard to imagine a flower more eye-popping than this enormous burst of narrow, twisted, and vibrantly colored petals. 


Each dinner-plate blossom is massive and an absolute bonfire of hot colors. From gold to peach to hot pink, the Myrtle’s Folly Dahlia is a beautiful one-of-a-kind bouquet all on its own!


 Myrtle's Folly Dahlia is a large plant, and will grow to be about 122cm tall at maturity, with a spread of 76cm. Since the blooms are so massive, the flower stalks can be weak and may require staking in exposed sites or excessively rich soils.

 

 

Gladiolus, gladioli!

Gladiolus-gladioli-bulbs-flowers-stalbert-edmonton-yeg

When I was growing up on the farm, Mom always planted a single row of gladioli in her vegetable patch. She just loved the beautiful flowers and would often head out to the garden in the summer and gather up a bunch of gladioli stalks to stick straight into a tall, clear, glass vase. The large flowers set on the tall straight spikes were always spectacular and looked incredible all on their own, without the addition of any other flowers or greenery. 

I was always amazed that these little brown corms could grow so quickly and produce such tall, magnificent spikes in such short order. Gladiolus grows best in rich, loamy soil and we had plenty of them by our old farmhouse.

For 2015, it’s exciting to see so many wonderful gladioli varieties available to plant in our yards. Everything from purples, blues and greens, to colourful mixed varieties like "Tutti Frutti", "Tropical Blend" or "Chocolate & Banana Blend".

If you haven’t planted gladiolus before, give it a try. It is unsurpassed as an outstanding cutflower for summer weddings, backyard BBQs, or simply to liven-up the kitchen or livingroom. And don’t be afraid to put a row in your vegetable patch if you have the space. Just remember to place the row of glads to the east side of the patch so that the tall spikes don’t block the sunlight for the vegetables.

The north to south row on the east side of the garden always worked out great in Mom’s garden.

Gladiolus-gladioli-flower-bulbs-stalbert-edmonton-yeg

~Jim Hole

p.s. There are still a few spots left for my tomato workshop on Saturday, April 18th. You can sign up by clicking here or using the button below.

 


What's Blooming In December? Indoor Bulbs and Christmas Roses!

Back in October, we planted a whole bunch of indoor bulbs including Amaryllis and Hyacinths. After many weeks of waiting, they're finally coming into bloom!

The hyacinths (bottom left) smell absolutely amazing, and are the perfect gift for the gardener in your life.

The amaryllis (top), meanwhile, will stun you with their long stalk and huge blooms.

Finally, they aren't bulbs, but we also have some Christmas roses or Helleborus (bottom right) which can be kept indoors this winter while they're in bloom and then transplanted in the spring as an outdoor plant.

With a little bit of mulch, these Christmas roses will overwinter just fine for years to come!

Come visit us soon and get some indoor blooms for your home!

Growing Bulbs in Alberta and Picking the Right Bulbs for Your Garden

There is a myth that growing bulbs in Alberta is difficult.  

Well, I am Dutch, and I love bulbs, and I have successfully grown almost every type of bulb that I can lay my hands on, right here in Albertasometimes even growing tulips between my strawberries!

So growing bulbs in Alberta is definitely do-able and at Hole's, I get to choose from an amazing collection. My brother-in-law is the owner of one of the largest tulip growing businesses in the world and—while visiting Alberta from the Netherlands last year—he was so excited to find many of the world's rarest and most unique bulbs right here at Hole's Greenhouse.

But how to pick the right bulbs for your garden?

Well, I always have some early flowering crocuses planted near my front entrance, where I will see them every time I leave the house. As soon as the snow melts, the crocuses peep out of the ground with their delicate flowers, announcing the arrival of spring.

An added bonus is that crocusses will naturalize. That means that you only plant them once and they will come back every year with more.

Making it Pop

I find that bulbs have the biggest visual impact if you plant them in groups and in combination with another kind of bulb or with a perennial that flowers at the same time.

Power Combos

One of my favourite combinations for early colour is to plant the bright yellow dwarf narcissus along with the true blue star flowers of the Scillas. Both bulbs will naturalize and this combination works even in a shady garden.

Planted in between your hostas, they will put on a show before your hostas emerge and, later, the large leaves of the hostas will cover up the bulbs as the scillas and narcissus go dormant for the summer.

Timing is Key

Another trick is to find combinations of plants that flower at the same time. Sometimes that is just a matter of trial-and-error or sometimes it is just good luck.

One year I found a great combination, when I planted early purple tulips between my "Fire Cracker" moss phlox  (a ground cover smothered in vibrant fuchsia-pink flowers) and in between my Blue Fescue grass with its fine blue leaves.

Check the Package 

I always look on the package of the bulbs if they are early, mid, or late spring flowering. I find the early and mid-spring flowering bulbs especially interesting, because they flower at a time when not much else does.

Experiment!

This fall I'm going to try a combination of soft yellow "Peach Melba" tulips with a pink trim and flashes of green. In between the tulips, I'm then going to place some with light blue Puschkinias with clusters of star-like light blue flowers. It looks like a marvellous combination to me.  I am not sure if the timing will be right, but it is exciting to try.

I will let you know how it worked out in spring. The beautiful thing about bulbs is that, even if a combination doesn't work out, they're easy to move around.

 

BONUS: Book a landscaping design consultation with Maria Beers this fall and we will give you a FREE $25 gift certificate for our Glasshouse Bistro.