Plant bulbs for beauty and color

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This past Christmas, as I excitedly began opening a gift shipped on behalf of an out-of-town relative, little did I anticipate the surprise I was in for: While the packing slip indicated a living amaryllis, the huge bulb planted in a 4-inch plastic container looked anything but living. Assuming the company that supplied the plant was overloaded with requests, I made a note to call upon returning from a trip to New Orleans. Lo and behold, when we came home after about a week, the lifeless bulb had produced a small, but healthy, green leaf. Since then, several leaves have come up. The whole plant is about a foot and a half tall now, and heavy to the point that a stake is necessary to support it. I can hardly wait for the spectacular flowers to appear.

Bulbs, with little doubt, are one of the marvels of nature, bringing much delight to gardeners. Just the other day, I couldn’t hold my amusement as I stepped into my greenhouse to check on the plants: A stray bulb, which I thought to be of no use at that time and trashed in the first available empty pot, had put forth a small, green shoot. Evidently, the bulb that I had presumed dead was simply resting, waiting for the right time to grow! It will be interesting to see what kind of bloom it will produce.

Right now, even though we are anxiously waiting for our spring-blooming bulbs to make their appearance in the garden, it also seems like a good time to start thinking about bulbs that provide color in summer. Soon, most garden centers will be stocking bulbs from A-Z, figuratively speaking, to win the heart of just about each of us. However, so as not to get carried away, it pays off to assess ones own needs and the available sites in the garden, since most bulbs are a long-term investment. Also, planting bulbs requires time, manpower and patience. Therefore, I try using a simple strategy: I plant some “tried-and-true” bulbs for naturalizing or cutting to bring inside, but, to satisfy the adventurous gardener in me, I like to get those I have not grown before. And, it always helps to do some homework ahead of time, or consult an associate at a full-service garden center, for not all bulbs are suited for the microclimate of the area in which a person lives or plans to garden.

Incidentally, to take advantage of the best selection, it is a good idea to buy as soon as bulbs become available, but store them properly until the right time to plant arrives.
Gita’s Tip of the Month

February is a good month to prune evergreens shrubs, but not the spring-flowering ones. Therefore, anytime you are in doubt, feel free to call the Chesterfield Extension Office to consult one of the master gardeners for advice.

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