tulips

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.

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

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.