Monday, 27 February 2012
AS THE days begin to close in, it’s time to think about adding colour and vibrancy to the garden which can be enjoyed later in the year.
Bulbs are one of be easiest ways to add ‘bling’ to the backyard, with only a small amount of effort required. Bang for buck, they are brilliant value — needing to be planted only once. Then, with a little care, they will reappear year after year when Mother Nature gives them the thumbs up in late winter, spring and summer.
Bulbs require little effort or skill. The main trick to developing a spring show of bulbs is remembering to plant them before the ground gets too cold. Once bulbs flower in the spring, it’s too late to plant. Garden centres have a huge range of bulbs available now. Staff will help choose a selection that suits taste, personality and style, or visit specialist mail-order bulb websites.
The most economical way to buy bulbs is in bulk when they are dormant and looking somewhat shrivelled up, almost dead. This is the best time to plant, mainly because the shock to the bulb is minimal when it is not actively growing.
After planting, when the soil cools down and the autumn rains appear, the bulb is kick-started into growth, although all the early activity is below the surface.
They put down roots to secure themselves into the soil, seeking out food and water at the same time. Then, when they have enough energy and the temperatures are right, they pop up through the ground and start to strut their stuff. When, where and how to plant
Select bulbs that are large and healthy, without marks or mouldy patches. Before planting, loosen the soil and blend in loads of well-rotted compost. Otherwise use Debco bulb mix, which contains Saturaid (for water absorption), calcium and has goodies in it to reduce risk of bulb diseases. Plant the bulbs at least twice their height deep in the soil or pots. This is vital as bulbs planted too shallow tend to fall over and fail to bloom. Planting deeply helps the bulb to anchor itself into the soil, so it can support the weight of its stems of flowers. The trick is to plant loads of bulbs so they can be enjoyed when flowering in the garden, leaving enough to pick for the vase.
Water the bulbs once planted and keep the soil moist through dry periods. Once leaves appear, a side dressing of Tui bulb food gives the bulbs a boost, particularly if they are planted with many other plants which may be using the nutrients in the soil. After flowering, bulbs naturally die down and the leaves naturally wilt and turn brown. This is an important part of their life cycle.
• The Tui NZ Flower Garden has a big section on bulbs and lists more than 20 varieties to grow, or log on to www.tuitime.co.nz to watch a ‘how to grow’ bulb video clip.