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Oct 19, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I hope it’s ok to post something tangential. This is the first year since moving into our house that I won’t be planting bulbs. I’m following a new treatment regimen for chronic pain that emphasizes rest and realized that bulb planting will be too taxing for me. Which isn’t actually a big deal, but it feels like a loss to me. One of the joys of gardening is the way it connects you to seasons and the earth and this year I haven’t been able to keep up with most of my rituals. I just needed a space to describe my feelings, so thank you.

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I bet that’s really hard, Dee. And this is absolutely the space for it.

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Oct 19, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

Hi Dee, I also am gardening through chronic illness and chronic pain and it's so hard to just feel like even simple tasks are too taxing this year or maybe forever. I have such a great garden in my mind but my body hasn't quite been able to make it happen yet. I did get some bulbs in with the help of an auger attachment for a drill this year, that may be an option for you in the future!

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Would you be open to sharing more about this setup? Any recommended links?

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I got it from Power Planter—"laura's edition" limits the amount of bending I have to do!

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Dee, I have osteoarthritis that seems to worsen every year (I'm almost 56). I understand this sense of loss; it's so hard to not be able to do the things we used to do, and it's definitely something I have to process and grieve. I hope the treatment regimen and rest bring you some relief.

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Oct 19, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I have had to deal with physical restrictions in the last few years, for the first time in my life, and I know what you mean. I hear you, and understand your sense of loss.

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Thinking of you and hope you find other ways to connect with nature that are kinder to your body. Also: make friends with another garden lover? I volunteered to help someone dig her dahlias in exchange for some tubers and what I know will be a lovely afternoon in her established garden.

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Oct 19, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I usually plant new tulips every year, because a lot of them aren't reliably perennial. I'm in a new house, though, with a lot more critter activity, so I'm not even going to bother this year. I'm planting 'Greengarden' and 'Ambon' daffodils, crocus and muscari. I hope to get them in the ground in this week. My soil temp is consistently at 50 degrees now (you want it to be 40-50 before you plant).

I don't use bone meal or bulb fertilizer. The bulb has everything it needs inside of it, and I haven't found using it makes a difference. I plant mine trench style, rather than digging a bunch of individual holes. It's so much easier, and I find it makes it easier to get natural looking clumps and drifts. A word of caution about the augers: they've skyrocketed in popularity, thanks in large part to a huge gardening influencer, but they can be dangerous. If you've got rocky and/or clay soil, or you have a lot of large tree roots, please be very careful.

The only other really key point about bulbs, is to make sure you let the foliage die down before you cut it back. Everyone hates the look of spent bulb foliage, but the bulb is using it to gather strength for next year's bloom. Don't braid it, or tie it; just let it die down. This is where interplanting becomes key, because the new spring foliage of things like peonies, bleeding heart, and hardy geraniums can help cover it up.

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Oct 19, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

Yes to all this! Augers don’t always make sense, especially if you like a more clumpy look to your bulbs.

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I plant dianthus with mine, which tend to take over like groundcover. It looks lovely when the two are blooming together.

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This is very good news about letting the bulb foliage die down, because this is exactly what I have done in this season (new house, turned out to have a few tulips and some really nice irises, but I have chronic pain and a chaos toddler, so no fun gardening and desperately behind on the yard work, but much needed unpacking and interior painting has come a long way).

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I am a huge fan of grape hyacinths aka muscari. They look beautiful planted in clumps across the front of a border, and smell wonderful. They are a lovely cut flower, too, in a little vase or a cream bottle. I dig a hole and drop in five at a time. My next favorite are daffodils. They are more weather hardy than tulips, and squirrels generally ignore them. They also will hybridize nicely. Pink daffodils are a delight.

My bulbs just arrived yesterday and it is not quite cold enough here in Zone 5 to plant, so I usually plant in November. My one tip for the newbies: plant bulbs in containers. These will give you color and allow you to experiment without having to commit to 100 of something.

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Pink daffodils! Never seen them before, but they sound lovely. I'll have to look for those when I go on my bulb buying spree soon.

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Hello thanks for the newbies tip! How big would you say the containers need to be for each bulb so they don't freeze over (zone 5ab, south Poland). <3

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You can use half barrels, which would hold a lot of bulbs, but I would say around a gallon size. Those colorful Vietnamese glazed ceramic pots are wonderful for bulbs.

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Newbie question here— do you dig out your bulbs when they’re in containers when they’re all done blooming or do you keep them going year after year?

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No, you can leave them and plant annuals over them. If you decide you want to plant them in the garden, wait until fall to dig them up.

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Oct 19, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

Toronto area, Zone 5ish

I have been obsessed with spring bulbs for years and have planted thousands in my yard (over the 20 years of owning this house). I try every year to NOT buy more but have failed most years. The biggest challenge is narrowing down which ones to choose. I just can't get enough of them. Tulips are my favourite and I've been adding to my collection of parrots for the last couple of years in particular. They're so quirky & fun looking!

No special tricks to them that I've found, just throw in some bone meal and plant them deeper than it suggests to try to deter the squirrels. If you also like daffodils, you can plant them together with tulips and that seems to help as well. I was worried about planting them deeper being a deterrent to blooming, but that hasn't been an issue. If anything I was probably planting them too shallow in the past and making it too easy for the squirrels!

I really want to try a lasagna bulb pot this year (also an excuse to buy more bulbs!). Not sure it'll handle our winter, but I'm going to try anyways. Then it'll be a fun challenge to find annuals to plant on top that look great while the bulb foliage dies off.

I ordered some giant alliums this year that I'm excited to see in Spring as well. The flowers are the size of a kid's head!

One of these years I'm going to buy a bazillion crocus bulbs and plant them in my lawn. I love the time lapse videos of how it grows in spring! Definitely buying a bulb auger for that project!

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I have also owned my house for over 20 years, and it makes me laugh (at myself) when I’m trying to plant bulbs that I shouldn’t have bought so late in the season and I dig up some existing bulbs.

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Definitely guilty of this too! "Oh, I totally forgot about those ones". Happens more often than I'd like to admit. Every year I think I should take photos in spring and inevitably I forget or at least forget to go back and look at them before planting!

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One year I sort of plotted them. Made no difference at all, as I neglected to consult the map when I was going in the next year. Now I write on the receipt next to the order "lady garden" "knockout bed" "front yard bed" "by the boxwoods" in an effort to remember which ones I really liked and which I don't want to buy again.

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I am a bazillion crocuses in the lawn person, as well as a try not to buy thousands of bulbs every year person. 100% recommend the crocuses for delightful early spring bee watching. Also I have heard recommendations to get “tommies” or species crocus, if you have chipmunk or squirrel issues.

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Also in Toronto and I’ve never successfully gotten a container bulb to flower. They always either get dug up by squirrels or turn into rotten mush. Any tips on avoiding those fates would be great. I’m using faux barrel planters I bought from IKEA.

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Freezing and thawing repeatedly is the problem. I have successfully forced bulbs and gotten containers to bloom in spring when I’ve done a good job of insulating them with piles of leaves, newspaper or other materials. If you have a garage or storage spot that stays about refrigerator temperature that’s perfect.

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Oct 19, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I planted a bunch of allium last year, no effort at all, probably not deep enough and most of them were all perfectly fine. I do have two really tall (like 10 feet) crazy ones that insist on sprouting way too early and they survived an insane winter here in zone 6. They bloomed in the summer and already have sprouted again (not deep enough?). We'll see how they do next spring!

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Oct 19, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I read an article that said "deep enough" was kind of a myth for most bulbs; they did some test plantings and tulips will apparently grow under a layer of mulch. That said, deeper planting deters squirrels.

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Good to know, thanks for sharing! I was worrying about my tulips being too shallowly planted.

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Indeed!!!!

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Love alliums! They are so hardy.

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Oct 19, 2023·edited Oct 19, 2023

I have finally realized what my dumb mental block is on buying/planting blubs is, and it is this: linear time.

How do you prevent gaps in your garden when the flowers and foliage of early bloomers are done? Like, if I plant a bed with tulips or crocuses, when they're done, that bed will be empty, right? I don't grow anything from seed, so can I just plop some starters right on top of crocus blubs in May (I'm 7A/7B)?

My brain is stuck on "one plant go in one place."

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Oct 19, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

Also, bulbs will put shoots up right through the roots/crowns of other plants (without damaging those other plants. I underplant/interplant basically ALL of my perennials with bulbs. The bulbs come up before the perennials come out of dormancy, and then by the time the foliage on the bulbs is looking scraggly the perennials are coming into their own. What got me over this "will that really be OK to have multiple plants in the same space?" concern was a diagram of "lasagna planting"...remember that in the soil you're working in three dimensions. The bulbs are actually underneath/in between the other plants...so from their perspective, they're not in the same space and they're perfectly happy that way.

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Oh my gosh, this is making me realize that my lack of spatial skills has blocked me from figuring out this very issue. So helpful! I can actually visualize it, even if I can't design a garden bed worth a damn, lol.

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ok i learned something today and also wasn't sure about this!! thank you both.

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ah, thank you! This is kind of what I was wondering -- if I can put things on top of blubs/plant blubs close to other things.

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I love this! Very permissioning.

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The 3D point about planting is so true, and I wish plants were commonly labeled as to where their roots sit for interplanting- I feel like I’m constantly googling “companion plants for [plant]” to try to figure this out. Maybe it is on labels in some places and I’m just ignorant? Dunno/probably!

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The solution is to not have dedicated beds! Mix 'em all together. I find that tulips and daffodils look best when they come up in "clumps". So I have a clump of daffodil bulbs right next to a peony. When the daffs are done, then the peony is about to bloom. Then right next to it is a hydrangea, which starts taking off a few weeks after the peony is done. The greenery on all the plants stays for the whole season, but the flowers themselves are staggered. It's all in how you design your garden.

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so, what I should do is plant blubs in my empty bed now, and then just let them bloom around empty spaces that I'll plan to fill with starters in May. It'll look crappy this spring, but hopefully better next year.

I'm stuck on wanting it all to look perfect from the get-go, and gardening takes years.

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One thing you can always do while waiting for other things to grow is to throw containers in the empty spots. We are about to embark on a renovation project that will tear up the garden, so a ton of our roses are in temporary pots scattered around the garden. They are filling in the places that will soon be overrun with construction, but for now those spots look nice, even though nothing is in the ground.

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Plant perennials. I always have lavender in my garden, and roses. Fall is the best time to plant both of them and you might find them on sale.

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I love that plan! Perennial gardening takes years, but you can always use annuals to fill the holes while waiting for the perennial plants to take root and start to thrive.

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Depending on your zone, planting perennials in may is way too late. It’s when the garden center has a lot of plants, but it’s not the best time to plant new perennials right before summer. Honestly plant some things now if you can get your hands on them.

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oh, interesting. I always heard Mother's Day weekend as the planting date for my zone. I've also been holding off because the local gardening FB group where I lurk is full of "I know the weather is nice but DON'T DO IT" posts in April.

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Yes, if you're in a colder zone, you do not want to plant in early spring. Wait until after your last frost. Perennials will do just fine planted after your average last frost date (and through the summer, in most cases, as long as you keep them watered). Fall is an ideal time to plant too, but it's best to get things in the ground at least a month before your average first frost. It also depends on how cold hardy the plant is, but I don't want to get to into the weeds and confuse you. If you have specific questions, feel free to ask, though!

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For summer veggies & annual flowers that can be true. But perennials and evergreen plants do well planted in fall.

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my mind is blown. Off to research!

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Oct 19, 2023·edited Oct 19, 2023

Yes, it’s hard to resist the urge to plant in late April early May unless you live in England, but I did successfully ‘pot up’ some dahlia bulbs indoors in early May to get a jump on their growing season here in Toronto (something I read in a book and had never done). I first kept the pots in my dark basement laundry room until shoots emerged at which point I brought them near a window and on a few sunny early spring days I took them outside for more sun. Then I moved them to the ground after frost date which was early June. It worked. Now if I can only figure out how to keep the tubers from rotting and also remember where I put them;)

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Oct 19, 2023·edited Oct 19, 2023

Similar to ShannonG's recommendation... I have a mix of two kinds of daffodils, day lilies, and crocuses interspersed with liriope which acts as the "filler" in the bed through the majority of the year because where I live (in the US Southeast) it's basically evergreen. The crocuses and daffodils come up first and give me early spring blooms, and by the time those have stopped blooming the daylilies are up and open. (I find deadheading lilies before they go to seed heads also keeps them reblooming all summer as long as you make sure they have adequate water). By the time the daylilies are done for the season, the liriope has put up it's flower spires. I also opted for a variegated liriope, so even when there's no flowers, the contrast in the leaves themselves lends a little more visual interest.

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Some vendors will mark their bulbs as early, mid, or late bloomers, and you can mix them so you have waves of blooms in the same bed. It's not exact, of course, but I've found it to be more or less reliable.

I also plant mine with annuals, either snapdragons or dianthus usually though sometimes pansies or petunias or impatiens depending on where in the garden. The tulips don't look as naked in the bed, then.

My lady garden (thus dubbed for all the roses with girly names in it like Beverly and Belinda's Dream) is also full or dianthus and tulips in the spring. For me, the dianthus is more of a perennial than an annual.

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This is so me! I'm a newbie to gardening beyond simple container herbs, and am trying to find ways to make areas in the front and backyard look more lush and full for longer, but I don't know how to layer plants.

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Oct 24, 2023·edited Oct 24, 2023

Some of the prettiest gardens I’ve seen had bulbs and plants in containers plopped in any “holes” in beds, and mixed in veggies like kale along with the flowers. My favorite gap filler is nasturtium, a lovely fuss-free trailing thing that edges beds and takes up any space it finds. Bonus: edible leaves and flowers with a peppery kick!

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Day lilies are a perfect complement to daffodils. As the daffodils die down, the daylily foliage gets taller, and it hides it, And then you have the lovely flowers in the summer

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I'm in Toronto, Canada and I have a real problem with squirrels digging up bulbs. They don't like to eat daffodil bulbs as much as they like to eat tulip bulbs, but they still dig them up (I guess to see what they are).

I wait until the absolute last possible moment to put my bulbs in the ground. Yes, they should go in before the hard frost, but I find it doesn't matter when. I've planted bulbs in October, November, and even December and had them come up the same in the spring. The only difference is that the later you wait, the less time the squirrels have to dig before the ground is frozen solid.

So even though I *could* plant bulbs now (mid-October), I'm not going to for at least another 6 weeks.

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A truly wild thing about the island where I live is that there are no squirrels. Wild, right? Plenty of other destructive garden forces (river otters!!) but no squirrels!

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founding

They seem to be urban dwellers.

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I have almost given up on container planting because of our squirrels. Tightly packing pots seems to mostly work, but not much else.

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okay I want all the juicy gossip about those damn otters! We used to have them on our dock as a kid and it was a hard and fast rule that you never went down to the lake if the otters were out, but I never heard of them getting into gardens.

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There are two solutions to the squirrel issue. One is a product called Squirrel Away, which is capsicum, or red pepper. You dig the whole, place the bulb, ads some Squirrel Away, and cover the bill with dirt. When you are finished planting, you can sprinkle Squirrel Away across the area. Do not get it in your eyes. It tastes terrible and makes the squirrels sneeze, which is kind of fun to watch. Another option is human hair, which you can save from your hair brush or get at a hair salon. Beauticians will usually give you a bag of swept up clippings. Squirrels do not like the texture when they try to chew it.

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I did not know the hair trick!

Our squirrels love hot pepper. They are evil urban squirrels with fancy expensive tastes.

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This made me laugh! Thank you. Also made me remember a great article by Etienne Benson that documents how people deliberately introduced squirrels into our urban environments to enhance enjoyment and connection with nature in the 19th c. Oh, and Benjamin Franklin kept one as a pet, which was also apparently not uncommon.

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That is bonkers. I guess that explains the time I went to NYC and there were dozens of people standing around a small park taking pictures of a squirrel. The squirrel was posing.

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Oh, so not everyone carries a baggie of peanuts and almonds at all times in order to give treats to crows and squirrels? (The campus I work at is overrun and I have many regulars.)

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I love squirrels when they're not eating my bulbs or emptying the birdseed! My wife has befriended our local crows, but they're less fond of me

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Oh - the squirrels know. Ha!

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Oh wow, my mop (of hair) provides me with plenty of hair... I didn’t know about this. Thanks!

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I've heard about using red pepper flakes, and I'm going to try it this season. The thought of sneezing squirrels made me chuckle!

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Oh wow I need to try this. Anyone else here from Chicago? We have some AGGRESSIVE squirrels.

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I have had really good luck with putting bird netting over the bulbs to deter squirrels. I need to go get some of that this weekend, actually, I noticed they've been bothering mine.

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Awesome! What do you use to hold it down?

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Omg, also in Toronto Canada and I do the same, Avery. I use a Japanese hoe because the soil in my garden is very clayey and the augur finds it hard going in November.

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Bricks and rocks. Also fall leaves, which makes it easy in the spring to drag it away.

Sometimes if I'm feeling particularly hateful to squirrels I'll take some of my volunteer onions and garlic (I've made poor choices in the past) and put it on top of the netting/in the leaves. They hate those.

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Hahahaha "volunteer onions and garlic". That's great

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Trying the bird netting trick for the first time this year, fingers crossed!

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Ooo thanks for this, we have so many squirrels in our neighborhood and although I know lots of my neighbors have tulips, I have heard it's kind of luck of the draw as to whether they come for your bulbs.

Plus I was going to plant this weekend but have come down with a cold, so it makes me feel a bit less panicked that I will miss the "right" time.

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Critters, ugh! I know several flower farmers who have to plant tulips in temporary raised beds surrounded by hardware store mesh. Planting late really helps too, and you get end of season sales! I rely heavily on daffodils and alliums - they smell funky and get left alone.

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Oct 19, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I started planting bulbs in autumn 2021 after bulbs, especially crocuses, bringing me joy from my neighbours in the dark lockdowny days of winter 20/21. It's a definite gift to my future self. I've planted crocus, tulips, and this year I've also planted anemones and aliums. I'm in Scotland and it's been WET this year so I'm not sure how that'll treat my bulbs. Fingers crossed! Farmer Gracy is my supplier tip for UK gardeners.

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Bulbs are definitely gifts for your future self! They really help me work on my delayed gratification skills.

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Oct 24, 2023·edited Oct 24, 2023

I’m in central New York and have anemone envy (anemonvy?) - mine would need to be started indoors and planted out in very early spring, but our weather gets unpredictable and temps can spike too quickly so the flowers get trashed. I give up and rely on other bulbs and corms. Freesias in pots indoors in February gets me through winter. Wishing you a lovely bloom-filled spring!

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Zone 5 a/b depending on Lake Michigan: for some reason, and despite the fact I have planted 100s of daffodil bulbs, they do not enjoy my yard for long. It very well could be squirrels but I always assumed they didn’t bother established bulbs, just the “loose” ones. It bums me out because I want daffodils!

My favorite bulb source is Old House Gardens. I went to a lecture by the founder who is a landscape historian, who said that when you see a clump of daffodils in the middle of a field or a forest or whatever, it is a sign of 1800s settlers/homestead attempts, because those bulbs were just their idea of a decorative front garden. You see this around Michigan rural areas. Landscape historian might be one of my fantasy careers...

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I know OHG. Their farm house was a couple blocks from where I lived and I was one of their first customers. Their bulbs are cool.

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Ok I have three things I've learned. I'm in zone 5B in Western Mass.

1. You can plant bulbs suuuuper late. As long as you can work the soil, you can plant bulbs. I was planting them up until January last year. Everything came up. I also think it helps with the squirrel and vole situations to plant as late as possible.

2. If you're planting daffodils or crocuses outside of a bed—like in a lawn or near the side of the woods in order to naturalize—toss them gently and plant them where they land. They end up looking like they were always there.

3. It's not the worst thing in the world to plant everything a lot closer together than is recommended. Tulips look wonderful when they're very close together and since most varieties are treated as annuals there's no reason to give them that much space. But even with other bulbs, I prefer to group them more closely than recommended and then divide them every few years.

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Yes! I do “wedge” planting - stick in my shovel, peel back the flap of soil, put in bulbs very close together, put back the flap, give it a stomp. Comes up like a nice clump and gives more impact than regular spacing. Flower farmers do “egg carton” spacing for things like tulips, they are practically touching.

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7B NYC: I planted my first hundred bulbs last year. I'd never done it before and was a little bit afraid; also, I ordered on a whim way too late, so I didn't even plant them until December 29 (which was after our first freeze, and is too late in most places). Nothing sprouted even through early May, and I thought that they'd all died because I'd timed them wrong...but then the daffodils came up, two months late, and were amazing to see in my very-new garden....and then the camassia, which I'd never seen in person before, shot up in the shade section and were gorgeous (till aphids devoured them). Then the Asian lilies and a single honey garlic: I couldn't believe that flowers so pink and gigantic had come out of my little construction-rubble knotweed-infested mud hole.

Although the flowers were great, the most encouraging thing happened when I was planting shrubs this fall. I had to dig up several daffodil bulbs that were in my way...and found that they had expanded hugely and were ready to divide. I knew that bulbs did that, but I tend not to have high hopes for my plants (bad gardener!) and was shocked to find that they'd flourished underground. There were about 15 new little bulblets to plant.

This year I've ordered 200 more bulbs. Some new daffodils and lilies, white camassia, alliums (which were indeed too late last year, I think, and didn't grow), and my first tulips, crocus, virginia bluebells, martagon lilies, and snowflakes. Last time the planting was kind of a lark, but this time, I'm using them as markers: they'll go in clumps around where I've planted herbaceous perennials, so that 1. their dead foliage will be covered up by the succession plants, but also 2. they'll kind of protect each other, reminding me at different seasons where other things are dormant and shouldn't be dug up.

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I have also found that late planted bulbs come up a bit late in year one sometimes, but then in subsequent years tend to grow on schedule. They're amazingly resilient!

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Genius idea, planting bulbs as perennial markers! As a newish gardener I have definitely ripped out things I thought were weeds. Alliums and camassia are incredible and I can’t believe more people don’t grow them. So many cool options!

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Oct 19, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

This fall I’m going to try starting bulbs from seed: lilies, alliums, calochortus, and these really great fritillaries that just got delivered yesterday. Never done it before, and some of these guys are real iffy--but I’m reminding myself that trying new things and learning from them is how you develop garden skills. (I’m aware they need drainage and dry summers and that it’ll take years before they get big enough to bloom.) Would love guidance/encouragement! 10b / San Diego.

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I'm reading this in our New Zealand autumn and have just pressed "order" on some unusual fritillary seeds. Thanks for the inspiration.

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Oct 24, 2023·edited Oct 24, 2023

That sounds incredible! I grew dahlias from seed and it was fun and low pressure. Gardening is just one big long experiment and you’re investing time and energy into learning and (literally) growing so it’s all good. Please report back. Fritillaries are so cool!

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Oct 19, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

Zone 7a. Scilla bulbs were a magical surprise the first spring in my new house. Light purple star-shaped flowers that come up after the daffodils are done.

I see a lot of references to blood, bone, and fish meal in this forum. What are non-animal/plant-based alternatives that have worked for you?

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I've never tried it for bulbs, but you could look into amending with seaweed.

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I planted like ten scilla last fall, and this year when I was digging up the tulip bulbs Scilla kept popping out of the ground. They spread around here like crazy. Zone 5b, though, they come up concurrent with or before my daffodils.

I don't know a non-animal product for bulbs. I did use dry powdered milk one year to great effect, but that's just another animal product.

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Scilla are lovely - mine have naturalized over many years and create a blue hazy effect in the lawn every spring. I have added thousands of crocus for the bees. As for amendments, not necessary - the bulb is an all-natural battery pack that has everything it needs to grow. Try compost, chopped leaves, or kelp fertilizer if you feel the need to jazz up your soil.

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founding

I order tulip and daffodil bulbs from tulips.com, which is Roozengaarde in the Skagit Valley. It's my spiritual mecca trip every spring. My husband truly doesn't understand why I need to go every year. Heathen that he is. I plant them in my big front containers and screen them against those little bastard squirrels. When the dafs pop up, I invariably send pictures to friends saying "we made it!". I also give bulbs for housewarming presents. I'm too lazy to do whatever it takes to store the bulbs over the summer and the bulbs too big to plant annuals over them. I give them to a friend every year and she has the most lovely tulip and daffodil display garden behind her garage!

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I would LOVE to see the Skagit Valley in spring. That’s on my gardening travel must see list, along with PNW dahlia season. I love your idea of bulbs as a housewarming gift!

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This is amazing! Thank you for the recommendation

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Honestly I've found the biggest enemy in bulb-gardening are the squirrels. My mother used to plant rows of tulips & crocuses, and within a week there'd be little holes dug-out all over the garden.

The squirrels have been such a nuisance here in the PNW that my Grandmother, when I was a kid, used to send me out with a gigantic squirt gun to spray the squirrels away (lol).

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I have squirrels, deer, and VOLES! The latter are the toughest because they stay underground. I find that daffodils and alliums are basically immune to all of these critters, and a top dressing of blood meal can deter the deer and squirrels. It stinks (kind of like manure, not like a dead thing) for the first couple of days then becomes undetectable to the human nose but presumably still smells to the squirrels and deer that something was killed there and they should avoid it.

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For voles you can throw a handful of kitty litter in the hole with your bulb. The voles don’t like chewing through it. Not foolproof if they are very hungry though!

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Kitty litter! I had not heard that before and will give it a try. I've basically given up on planting tulips in anything but big whiskey barrel pots (tulips on the bottom of a lasagna planting scheme is too deep for squirrels, and the pot protects from voles). I do have a handful of Darwin hybrid tulips in the ground that the voles have missed and do try to come back each year and I love them, so maybe I'll do a little kitty litter experiment and see if that thwarts the voles this year.

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This is also my biggest problem. I got so frustrated that I didn’t plant any bulbs last year. I’m hoping someone has a solution!

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I am an extremely lackadaisical bulb-planter. I end up dumping them all into a bag and throwing handfuls into the areas I want to plant, sprinkling bone meal straight from the box over the general area, and then dumping new bags of soil over them. This method has served my daffodils well for years, and this fall I'm adding in tulips and grape hyacinths, which I know will go feral within a few years. It's 70 outside of Seattle today so I'm still not ready to drop bulbs in just yet. Maybe next week?

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Oct 19, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

For the first time, we’ve planted a bunch of bulbs and rhizomes this year and are excited for a spring flower garden in our normal vegetable beds. I’m pregnant and won’t be able to do the intensive vegetable gardening I’m used to in the spring and early summer, so we wanted a less maintenance-intensive garden approach for this year. We interspersed six types of bulbs and I look forward to seeing how they all grow together!

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Ok, how about a short "bulbs for dummies" primer? Bulbs are things you plant when it gets cold, that then come up early in the spring. What else do I need to know? What is a rhizome? How do I know which flowers come from bulbs? Do they come back year after year? !!!

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"Bulbs are things you plant when it gets cold, that then come up early in the spring." That's it. That's the primer! :)

Looking at catalogs/websites is a great way to learn about plants. Annual, perennial, rhizome/bulb/tuber, potted nursery start, light requirements etc. Go poke around on https://www.whiteflowerfarm.com/ or https://www.bluestoneperennials.com/index.html and just read about whichever plants catch your interest.

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thank you!!

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Bulbs (and rhizomes and corms) are plants that store starches underground until the PERFECT time for them to spend those nutrients on reproduction (= pretty flowers), and then they die back again until next time. Their reproductive strategy involves a lot of underground snuggling until it’s hot or cold or wet or dry enough for them to thrive.

For example: an onion. That’s why onions start sprouting when you leave them in the pantry too long--they think it’s spring. If you put that sprouted onion in the ground, you’d get an onion plant that would flower and make seeds that you could grow into more onion plants that would go on to form their own bulbs...

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helpful, thank you!!

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Many bulbs are perennial and return, indeed they spread, year after year (e.g., daffodils, crocuses). Tulips tend not to be reliably perennial - most diminish/disappear after the first few years or sooner. Darwin hybrids are the most perennial tulip to my knowledge - they are large-flowering tulips. Rhizomes are thick, horizontally-growing stems from which roots and shoots emerge - think ginger, for example, or irises.

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I just want you people to know that now I just placed a $200 order over at tulips.com.

I'd blame you all, but I was going to do it anyways. This time, though, there was more to choose from because I didn't wait for the last minute.

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I ordered from Van Engelen in July and it was… more than $200. I want all the pretty flowers, can you blame me? Ha!

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This makes me think of a family trip to the Netherlands where we went to see the tulip farms and gardens. We came back with tulip, hyacinth and crocus bulbs, which still bloom every year (I think it's the same ones?).

The best part is the violet carpet of crocuses that comes up every early spring underneath the plum tree.

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We happened to fly into Amsterdam during tulip season years ago, and flying over those fields of tulips was jaw-dropping, like nothing I've ever seen before. A rainbow patchwork quilt!

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This is on my gardening bucket list! Sounds absolutely incredible.

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I have planted thousands of crocuses in my lawn and it is so much fun to watch the bees zoom around in the spring!

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Do you interplant your crocuses with daffodils and tulips? A carpet of crocuses sounds amazing!

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I highly recommend lawn crocuses! For Interplanting they’re kind of short, I’d go with puschkinia or muscari instead.

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I have lived on Nantucket Island for years. We have a ritual “Daffodil Weekend” so everyone plants them like crazy. This is how I learned that rabbits hate them and if you plant your other bulbs mixed in with your Daffys they too will be saved. I have recently moved off Island and this seems to be working in this garden as well.

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I love the idea of planting both daffodils and other bulbs together because doesn’t that stagger the blooms?

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Yes. Daffodils are early. They come up first then the tulips

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Add alliums to the party! They smell garlic-y so wear gloves. Critters leave them alone and it extends the bulb display even longer!

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Here is what I do. I have a fairly small yard (that I absolutely PACK with a few hundred bulbs every year). I have dedicated two beds that are under crape myrtle trees to perennialized daffodils, with a few other things- muscari, hyacinth, wild species tulips, and hellebores. I pretty much leave these alone. Then I plant my tulips densely in trenches throughout my yard (plus anemones and, some years, ranunculus). The tulips are like eggs in a carton- clumpy. I treat my tulips as one season annuals due to my space constraints and because I like to use them for cutting. I cut my daffodils too but don't dig them up.

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Your yard sounds incredible! I don’t blame you for egg-carton planting and yanking tulips, that’s what flower farmers do too.

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I'm in DC (7a, I think, still learning) and wanted to plant some peonies this year. I've never tried my hand at bulbs before, and we've got squirrels and deer, despite being in the city. Any advice is welcome!

I just planted some cold-weather seedlings: Black-Eyed Susans and Snapdragons. It's all a big experiment for me, outdoors I usually just focus on my vegetable garden.

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Oct 19, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

Peonies definitely benefit from being fall planted. I'd get them in the ground asap. Start with daffodils, if you're worried about squirrels. They won't touch them.

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author

Do you think it’s too late for me to transplant 2 peonies within my garden? Lows still in the high 40s, I don’t think we’ll have our first freeze for several weeks

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Not too late! Be prepared for peonies to take a year or two to really get going - I have some that had a handful of blooms at first and are now settling in nicely. Pay close attention to planting depth and you should be fine. Peonies can live for a hundred years!

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Not at all. I just planted on in zone 6 a few days ago. They might not flower as well in the spring, or they might not skip a beat, but they'll be fine.

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Do you plan to divide them? If so, do it ASAP. If not you are fine until Halloween.

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You can’t plant black eyed Susan’s and snapdragons now?? Adding to cart.

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It depends on your zone, and whether you're planting from seed or seedlings/plants. Some black eyed Susans (Rudbeckias) are annuals and some are perennials. Snapdragons are annuals. Zone 7 or higher, knock yourself out and put them in the ground now, or wait until spring. Below 7, you're probably better off waiting until spring for the Rudbeckia (and definitely for the snapdragons).

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Oct 19, 2023·edited Oct 19, 2023

I took a seedling planting class from a florist (because this is who I am now), and we planted seeds in pods in early September. I just transferred the newly sprouted seedlings outside last week, to hopefully give them a month before the first frost. Then they should theoretically bloom in early spring! I am an absolute beginner so gigantic YMMV.

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I bought Rudbeckia as a seedling for fall planting from White Flower Farm! Was this but now sold out https://www.whiteflowerfarm.com/rudbeckia-american-gold-rush

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Can! I meant can! I was wondering at the idea of planting seeds now.

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Any seed that says it needs “cold stratification” on the packet can be planted now (if you live somewhere with winter). I’m in zone 5a and just tossed a packet of liatris spicata and echinacea in and we’ll see what happens.

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I love winter sowing and have gotten many perennials started using the milk jug method. Scatter sowing works great for poppies and some wildflowers. I love liatris!!! Have you grown other kinds or just spicata?

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I hadn’t heard of the milk jug method but it sounds perfect! I can’t start indoors because I have a toddler in all the areas with decent sunlight. I’ve done at liatris once before as a nursery plant, unfortunately it had a great year and then never came back. I don’t remember what variety it was! But my seed store only had spicata.

Maybe I’ll try them milk jugged as well as an experiment to see what works. Perennials cost like $15-20 per plant, even for most basic Shasta daisies, which seems outrageous to me and I have bare space to fill out…

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Seeds are cheap! Definitely worth the thrill of the experiment. I’ve done well winter sowing perennials and anything that likes to self sow or needs cold stratification. If you want ALL the liatris, there are like six different varieties for sale at Prairie moon. They sell native seeds and plants.

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I'm an intent (my wife would say obsessed) bulb gardener, probably because the Wisconsin winters are so long and I really need that promise of spring color. Most years I just add things, but this year I dug up all (?) of the tulips because they were crowding each other out. Last week I took Wednesday afternoon and replanted about 600 bulbs, although half of those were really tiny and probably won't flower next year.

Has anyone else ever planted tulips under grass? I have a tiny yard and was reclaiming a part of it from the oregano, and I thought it would be fun to have tulips and then have it die back down to a grass/clover planted low-water lawn for the rest of the season.

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I have, and they struggle individually if the grass roots get matted. Plant them in clumps.

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Can we talk about how to plant bulbs at this scale? My bulbs came up just fine after being planted in very hard soil, but getting them IN to said soil was another matter. I also have a chronic illness that doesn’t care about my gardening #goals. Are there tools that make hole-digging for bulbs physically easier?

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I dig a “flap” with my shovel and plant many bulbs in the one hole, then cover. Comes up nicely as a clump. You can go closer than the recommended spacing and they’ll do fine. Also, you know this, pacing and hydrating and paying attention to how you feel. I’ve injured myself during dahlia tubers digging and bulb planting, it’s easy to overdo it.

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I wonder if the smaller species tulips might work well in a lawn. They are more the size of crocus which do really well like that. I've not tried it, but I can picture it being really lovely!

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I'm in Houston and my tulip success is totally dependent on how cold the winter ends up being. I don't even bother to place my order until November, and they go into the ground sometime in December, sometimes even January, when I am certain we're not going to have a warm up.

I usually order from tulips.com, though I've been known to just pick up packs at Home Depot. Usually I have a sort of plan as my husband hovers in the hopes I don't plant the tulips in a place HE has plans for. Sometimes they're utterly spectacular (2018 and 2021 had good freezes, so the tulips were amazing), and sometimes I'm lucky if even half come out (last winter was a bummer). I used to dig them up, but they usually are rotten by the time I get around to it, so I have taken to assuming they're a sunk cost. Not once has one come back.

My mother has convinced me daffodils will do better, so I'm throwing a few dozen in this year to see what happens.

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Some companies let you order pre-chilled bulbs, or you can try sticking them in the fridge to make sure they get enough cold. I’m in zone 4/5 and have forced bulbs indoors this way. There are plenty of daffodils that work for warmer climates. Bulb companies do tend to list recommended growing zones so you can check that info before buying too.

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How do you get tulips or bulbs in an attractive clump? The directions always say to plant X" down, X" apart, and then I end up with long rows of bulbs. Is it really OK to just through multiple tulip bulbs in one hole? How many in a clump?

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You're right, they look much better in clumps than rows. Dig a wide hole that's as deep as your bulb requires. Set the bulbs down in the hole, a few inches apart, exactly the way you'd want them to come up. Your clump can be as big as you want.

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Yes! I want a cute clump not an awkward row.

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I find just tossing handfuls gently and then planting them where they land gives a really natural effect.

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Yes to all the below! I have done "trench" planting- basically dig a big wide/long hole and dump the bulbs in the configuration you like. Also way easier than digging one hole at a time!

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I am a super lazy bulb planter. I use the auger to dig a hole, and then I just jam as many bulbs as I can in there. I definitely do not follow the instructions. The plants figure it out!

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Oct 19, 2023·edited Oct 19, 2023

New to bulbs here! Where is your favorite place to buy bulbs? Bonus points for an online small business with unique-ish options! I’m in zone 9

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Great question - my understanding (and others please correct me) is that tulips are very different than, say, dahlias and there aren’t a ton of small providers (I think because they’re only profitable en masse, with big fields??). Irises are a different story - I ordered from Schreiner’s, which is a third generation farm in Oregon with beautiful varietals they’ve bred themselves (and the packaging was exquisite). Floret has a few recs for smaller bulb providers here: https://www.floretflowers.com/favorite-bulb-plant-sources/

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I am in the Northeast and highly recommend Longfield Gardens (NJ) and John Scheepers / Van Engelen (CT). This time of year your options may be more limited - best time to order bulbs is summertime - but you may also get some nice sales!

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The Farmhouse Flower Farm (Washington State) is family-owned/run and has a variety of high-quality specialty bulbs on offer (and their shop is stocked right now!). Maren used to work for Erin B at Floret; her farm is down the road from Floret. She offers dahlia tubers in the spring. https://www.thefarmhouseflowerfarm.com/store

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It is too late to buy bulbs and do this?? I am the worst at remembering to buy them in time. I'm in zone 7a. I noticed there are a ton of bulbs on amazon - big mistake???

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Also there’s a lot of options at Lowe’s, Home Depot, Costco, Ace, etc!

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Definitely not too late. Basically it's only too late if the ground is so hard you can't dig. I've dug through snow to plant bulbs before. :)

For any of the "standard" bulbs the longer you wait the cheaper they get too. Not sure I'd buy from amazon, but dollar stores and big box stores all have them at really great prices! If you're looking for fancier varieties then it's worth buying from a grower directly.

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Thank you!!

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No absolutely not too late! But I wouldn’t buy them on Amazon…

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Oct 24, 2023·edited Oct 24, 2023

You still have time to plant and if you’re buying now you could get some good deals even if selection is limited. For next year: Best time to buy is summer if you’re going for catalog order. I would NOT go with Amazon, you may get mush or a shriveled mess. Maybe try a local hardware store or big box, at least you can see and touch what you’re getting.

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For my garden 7a, Knoxville, TN, it's all about protection. This past spring, we had some beautiful tulips come up ( planted by previous owners) and then the bulbs were promptly devoured by the copious squirrels, regular and ground variety, and probably the moles too. The foliage withered and died because there was nothing left under ground!

I have purchased wire mesh planting baskets to be used for any bulbs I decide to plant. Also things like allium are going to feature heavily in my replacement plantings. So disheartening to see but I'm hopeful to find the right mix AND deterrents.

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Allium and daffodils are critter resistant and you’re on the right track with wire mesh! Good luck!

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Zone 8b PNW

I would like to know how other folks deal with wintering dahlias.

I have a couple of raised beds full of dahlias. I have approached “putting them to bed” as I call it in a couple of ways.

First year I had them (after the they died back from the inevitable frost) I dug them up and layered the tubers between pine wood shavings in a container that had slats of ventilation. Stored them in our garden shed. Checking periodically throughout winter. Some didn’t survive (rotted). In hindsight perhaps I should have dried out tubers before layering in pine shavings? 🤷‍♀️

Second and subsequent years after, I have left the tubers in the raised beds, put mulch and leaves over them. Covered the raised beds with black garden cloth that also allowed ventilation. I seemed to have better success with this approach. Hence doing it year after year.

I kinda like the idea of digging the tubers up after the vegetation dies off and subdividing the new growth from the old and then storing them. That way come next season, prep the raised bed and plant the tubers. Guidance, suggestions, ideas greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

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Oct 20, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

Hi Janetta, I'm 8b, too and usually dig and divide. This year I'm doing it now, but I've done it as late as December/Jan. I find it's easier to dig and divide because otherwise the tuber clumps get way too huge after a few years. They can crowd out other stuff and eventually will become less productive (and then eventually rot from the center). I divide and then store in plastic bins (closed all the way) in either vermiculite or peat (sparingly) and keep the bins in my garage. I've also tried wrapping them in saran; it works, but I can't stomach the plastic waste of that anymore. Kristine Albrecht of Santa Cruz Dahlias is an excellent teacher on digging/dividing/storing. Here's a link to her youtube channel. I discovered her via Instagram (@santacruzdahlias) https://www.youtube.com/@kristinealbrecht3560/videos

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Oct 19, 2023·edited Oct 19, 2023

I’ve been reading a beautiful book, the Cut Flower Sourcebook by Rachel Siegfried (such a great reference and would make a great gift imo), and at her flower farm in the UK, she describes leaving some ‘under a blanket of compost and 12” of straw for the winter which is then pulled back when shoots appear in the spring.’ The mother tubers she stores in crates are first left to dry for a few weeks before storing in crates on a bed of potting compost with the tubers covered in vermiculite which is good at regulating humidity, preventing them from drying out. Elsewhere I’ve read tubers can be stored in shredded newspaper so I’m going to try that.

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I use wood shavings to store mine, in open plastic bags insjde waxed vegetable boxes in my basement. It’s all about figuring out your temp/humidity situation and adjusting accordingly. Check tubers every few weeks too!

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I don’t know about digging up dahlias. I was thinking I would do that this year so I could fix up my garden bed. I signed up for the Floret free dahlia class but I haven’t started watching the replays yet.

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The Floret series is great! Four videos, no strings attached. It's free and live through early December, here's the link https://workshop.floretflowers.com/2023-dahlias-fall-mini-course-opt-in

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I’m zone 4/5 so dig and divide is mandatory for me. Definitely let them dry out before you store - getting the humidity and conditions right can be tricky and there are so many different ways to store, everyone has their own method. For me: dig, label, knock off dirt, dry for a few days, and store in my root cellar / basement in waxed vegetable boxes with some shavings and plastic bag left open. No matter what, you will lose some tubers, it’s all part of the learning process.

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Zone 8 PNW (is that 8b?)

1. Ok - interplanting - what is and isn’t safe for this? I think I keep trying to interplant tulips with dahlias and that just doesn’t work. I’m giving that up this year. But, if I want to plant something else like zinnias on top of a place where I have tulip bulbs, is that ok??

2. Where should I order my bulbs from? Holland keeps sending me cheap deals. Is that like the worst?

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I wouldn’t try with dahlias since they need a lot of room and water, and the tuber forms a large clump over the season. For tulips to come back they want a dry summer. Yes to any annuals where the tulips are - great way to hide the foliage as it dies back. I usually go with perennials like peonies and bleeding heart. I’m in the Northeast and love Van Engelen/John Scheepers and Longfield Gardens. You get what you pay for - some companies have smaller or lower quality offerings and the customer service is not great

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For interplanting the only thing to keep in mind is the depth of the things you're planting. You can plant tulips quite deep so you have more room above for the next thing. Zinnias don't need a lot of soil room so I think they'd work well with tulips!

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Thanks for the advice. I think I’m going to go for tulips pretty deep and then zinnias in the summer on top. I have the perfect place for that.

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Oct 19, 2023·edited Oct 19, 2023

My biggest win lately has been with ranunculus and anemones, technically corms. If I pre-sprout and pre-soak them, they do fantastically well for me. Generally, I order them in the spring, and they arrive in November. I immediately soak them until they plump up nicely 4-8 hours. Then I bury them in a light layer of vermiculite and perlite, in flat trays in the dark. They start sprouting in a week, and by two weeks, they are ready to go in the ground for spring blooms.

Zone 9b, central coast California

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I am envious! Zone 4/5 New York and I pre sprout mine in February since they can’t live outside until maybe April. The spring weather here can be very unpredictable and they freeze, then bake so I get sad looking foliage and a handful of blooms. I vet yours look incredible!

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Aw, that is indeed a challenging zone, good luck!

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oh wow, ok maybe I'm doing anemones incorrectly?? When they arrive in the fall I soak them for 4-8 hours and then plant them out. They did ok last season but not AWESOME. Do you buy new corms every year or do they naturalize? I'm seeing foliage come up now, but not sure if they will be vigorous in the spring (like a perennial) or if they will be even less productive (like tulips).

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The pre-sprouting before planting really helps!

I find some come back but they don't spread and naturalize like daffodils. Some get eaten by gophers, some probably rot. So I just order new ones every year.

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Bulbs in outdoor containers (Z6, low snow area)? Wine barrels specifically - thoughts?

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Absolutely. Put a layer of fine chicken wire across the middle of the barrel, then soil, bulbs and more soil. Water well. Let the leaves fall on top of it. You can also use the sawdust that the bulbs come in. When spring comes, remove any remaining leaves and water well again, then water as needed.

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No expertise but I purchased 100 daffodil bulbs this year. One thing I noticed was the squirrels dug many of them up--they didn’t eat them, just tossed them around a bit. Quite frustrating. I put them back. We’ll see how things are in the Spring; this is definitely a test 😊

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Try planting deeper - doesn't seem to affect blooming but does help deter the squirrels!

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This happened to me with literally every nasturtium seed I planted this summer. Honestly I was impressed by how diligently they were at uncovering every individual seed. 🥴

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I would be furious, I love nasturtiums! Have you tried starting in pots on a windowsill? I can’t plant sunflower seeds outside because I’m basically feeding the birds. And snails and slugs and bunnies.

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Cage! Wire mesh should protect them until they start coming up.

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It's SO frustrating! I've sprinkled blood meal on the top of the soil to prevent squirrels from digging, because it smells disgusting. It works for a bit, but then it rains, and the blood meal washes away, and you have to do it all over again.

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I finally just became a paid subscriber and I am HERE for the Garden Study! I have a question that's probably more than a little stupid: how do you all deal with overwhelm and decision fatigue when deciding on what you want to plant for the year? I'm almost certain that it's my perfectionism speaking but an hour after getting excited about all the beautiful bulbs I want to lasagna-plant in my front yard containers, I get overwhelmed with trying to figure out the perfect combination of plants that I need to buy and develop a pit in my chest from agonizing over my shopping card too much. Anyone else experiences this? Any tips on how to deal with garden planning overwhelm?

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I keep a log of all of my ideas- they’re less paralyzing to me if I’m sure I won’t forget them. Mine is a messy paper journal, I haphazardly track Garden activities/bloom times/weather events, exactly what I planted (Latin names!), lessons learned/best in show lists for the season, and ALL of my projects/plans/plant prospects. Dream big, start small!

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Wanted to put in a good word for saffron crocus bulbs as I didn't see anyone else mention them (I'm in 9b/10a border) -- I bought some two years ago and apparently they can take two years to flower but wow, so worth it. I've collected saffron from a few blossoms and you have to get out there to check every morning because the blossoms wilt in one day, but the smell is AMAZING and I'm excited to have more saffron over the next little while.

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Thank you for the encouragement, I have been on the fence about getting some and now I think I’ll do it!

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Zone 5b Northern IL (NW of Chicago) - I decided not to do tulips this year but got a lovely daffodil mix and some more allium. I'm planting more daffodils where I have some beebalm because I noticed a neighbor does this and it's so cool to have spring/summer plants doing their thing with the seasons. Tons of squirrels here so I'll be covering the daffs with some wire mesh. Also getting garlic into the ground. All of this takes a ton of work and a toll on my body due to chronic arthritis. But it makes a nice break from work (I work from home) to just get outside and do a bit of digging and planting.

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This all sounds lovely! I grew monarda punctata / spotted bee balm this year and it is the coolest alien looking thing and smells nice. You know this: pace yourself, take breaks, stay hydrated. It’s easy to overdo it. Happy planting and enjoy the autumn weather!

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I Have no recommendations but am planning to plant bulbs soon in the house I moved into almost exactly a year ago! Zone 7b. Excited to see what works, what doesn’t, and garden more next spring now that we have a better grasp on what areas get sun, etc.

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Enjoy! We moved into our house in January so we are in similar places with our garden (except I am 6b).

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Cayenne pepper. Buy in bulk to keep the squirrels away.

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best bulbs for western mass? i am a TOTAL newbie.

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I'm in Berkshire Co and the main issue is not so much weather as it is marauding fauna. Most bulb shops will tell you which bulbs attract which animals and how to mitigate things like squirrels stealing bulbs.

But since you're new to bulbs my biggest recommendation is to start with some things that are reliably offensive to most creatures and IME those are crocuses, daffodils, and alliums.

It really sucks and is expensive to plant a bunch of tulips and then find them destroyed so if you do want to grow them I recommend growing them inside a fenced garden because deer will eat the flowers down to the ground and break your heart.

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my mom has had good luck with snowdrops and crocuses, which are nice early bloomers when the winter feels endless. i think tulips do OK as well and daffodils. My parents are in Berkshire County

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Thank you! Does she plant around now ?

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Plant when the soil temp is 40-50 degrees. You can get a soil thermometer, or use a site like https://www.greencastonline.com/tools/soil-temperature

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