Garden Journal

It's fall; time to get those bulbs in the ground

September 19, 2012

In Colorado Springs, there is a natural wonder with ancient sedimentary beds of blue, red, purple and white.  This is the Garden of the Gods.  Whether it is Eden or Colorado, we seem to like the idea of a home for the gods.

Years ago, a young Greek nymph named Echo fell in love with a handsome man named Narcissus, but he broke off the relationship. Echo was so heartbroken that she hid in a cave and pined away until only her voice remained.

The handsome Narcissus instead fell in love with himself.  While admiring his own reflection in a pool, he fell in, drowned, and became the flower we know today.

Both the god Apollo and Zephyr the West Wind loved another handsome Greek boy named Hyacinth.

The wind god Zephyr was jealous that Hyacinth chose the glowing archery god Apollo, so during a game of discus, Zephyr blew Apollo's discus off course, and the discus killed Hyacinth. Apollo could not bear to have Hades take young Hyacinth, and Apollo made the fragrant flower hyacinth sprout from Hyacinth's blood. Even today, wild hyacinths have markings on their petals of the letter "A" in Greek, a letter that signifies the sound of crying.

Then there is the passionate love affair of the Greek gods Zeus and Hura, whose love was so passionate that their homeland burst into blooms of crocuses.

Hyacinth bulbs contain oxalic acid that can irritate sensitive skin, so be careful handling them. You can wear gloves to avoid irritation.

All of these bulbs need good soil drainage so they will not rot.  If your soil is dense with a lot of clay, try adding compost, peat moss or even sand to the top 12 inches of soil.

Bulbs need phosphorous for root development. Since phosphorous does not move through the soil, mix it right into the planting mix, just below where the bulbs are planted.

Bone meal is a good organic source of phosphorus.  Or use a specialty organic bulb fertilizer.  As soon as the shoots come up in the spring, sprinkle slower-acting organic bulb food around them.

Because narcissus, hyacinths, and crocuses bloom before most trees or shrubs leaf out, you can successfully plant them under trees and shrubs.

A good rule of thumb is to plant bulbs two to three times as deep as the bulb is tall. Plant narcissus, hyacinths and crocuses with the nose of the bulb upward.

You can either plant each bulb individually in its own hole or dig up the entire bed, place the bulbs on the open area, then cover with soil.  If you want to plant bulbs in a grassy area, try using a bulb-planting attachment for cordless power drills.  You can even get creative and spell out greetings with the crocus bulbs that will bloom into a flowery message in early spring.

Immediately water the bulbs after planting.

Watering settles the soil and eliminates air pockets.  The water will hydrate the bulbs and they will begin sending out roots.

You can plant fall bulbs right up until the ground freezes.

Plant the trio of narcissus, hyacinths and crocuses now, and next year your yard will burst into bloom worthy of the gods.