Spring Bulbs – Keukenhof

At our September 2014 Master Gardener meeting, Dugald Cameron, president of Gardenimport, an online and mail-order perennial specialist company,
spoke to us about spring bulbs. Dugald and his family started Gardenimport in 1983 because they couldn’t find the quality or selection of bulbs and plants they wanted for their gardens. Since then, Dugald has traveled the world in search of unusual and interesting plants. Each year he visits the growers in Holland to see the latest developments in spring bulbs and to order top quality and hard to find products. He showed us beautiful photos of Keukenhoff where millions of bulbs are planted fresh each year.

Dugald’s presentation covered the spring season from earliest Galanthus to the latest flowering Alliums and Eremurus. He had many suggestions for purchasing, planting and utilizing spring bulbs for the best garden display. He told us:
– the best bulbs to buy have been kept in cool storage (under 22C)
– the bigger the bulb, the more expensive it will be and the better the bloom
– to discourage squirrels form digging up tulip bulbs, use pet hair, blood meal or chicken manure in and around the planting site.
– plant in November when squirrels are less active.
– have an area in your garden with a whole month of flowers in bloom by “bunk-bed” planting. Plant the largest bulbs deeply, then layer bulbs according to size as you fill in the hole. The earlier smaller bulbs will appear first, then give way to later blooms which will conceal their foliage.
– combine Anenome blanda with early tulips or hyacinths. The hyacinths will grow up through the bed of anenomes.
– divide bulbs such as Galanthus and Alliums after flowering to increase your stock.
– daffodils and narcissus are the same plant. There are 12 different forms of daffodils and many
colours and combinations, even beautiful orange shades e.g. “Scarlett Tanager”
– daffodils do best in full sun. Plant them alongside daylilies to conceal the ripening daffodil foliage.
– squirrels do not dig daffodils. Under the right conditions, they increase rapidly and are ideal for naturalizing in lawns
– Narcissus jonquilla, a narcissus with clusters of small fragrant yellow flowers is always fragrant.
– never put tulips and daffodils in the same vase
– bulbs need 8 to 10 weeks of cool and dark to force for winter. Narcissus are the easiest, hyacinths can also be forced
– spring bulbs can be planted in pots in the fall, then heeled into the garden. Different bulbs can be layered in the same pot. Dig the pots in late March and insert them in planters for an early display of flowers. The frost won’t affect them.
– species tulips such as tulipa Tarda will seed around the garden
– Eremurus (foxtail lily) need perfect drainage
Dugald did a brief discussion on peonies and recommended buying All-American winners. He uses his lilac cuttings in spring to support peonies in a natural fashion.

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