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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Entries in flowering bulbs (5)


Flowerbeds that Sing in the Spring. 

My walkway garden in unusually cold weather.Did you plant enough spring flowering bulbs? Do you suppose that there was room in the beds for more, even though there was no room in your budget to buy them? I deal with the issue of cost by adding more spring-flowering bulbs to the beds every autumn, according to the amount of disposable gardening funds remaining.

On a warm day, it looked like this.For that reason, my display of spring flowering bulbs tends to be far more relaxed and unplanned than are my perennial plant compositions. I don’t mind the resulting haphazard design because it doesn’t take much to bring a smile to my face, or that of my wife’s, when the bulbs begin to bloom. All we do is step outdoors to take in the morning paper, and we are smitten.

After six months of dreary, white winter, we care more about the presence of color in our lives than we do about design. The captioned image above and the close-up below represent the early flowering display; an assortment of daffodils, narcissus, hyacinths, and early species tulips of varying heights and colors, planted over a span of 5 years. A different color story, composed with Darwin hybrid tulips, will bloom later.

Frigid temperature did not allow the bulbs to put on a show for their closeup.Through the eyes of a garden colorist, what is missing from the above composition is a row of dark blue hyacinths running the length of the bed, just behind the first row of rocks. That shade of blue, hardly visible in the bottom center of this second photo, will inject vibrancy to the color composition. I will attend to that matter that at the end of the upcoming gardening season.

A better showing when the weather turned warm.In late summer, as gardening activities starts to wind down, buying bulbs for the next spring seems like an expensive exercise. Yet, when those bulbs do flower, and the garden breaks out into song, regardless of how many I planted, the experience of watching spring flowering bulbs grow is so enjoyable, that I cannot remember why I held back and planted so few.

Planning the spring garden usually begins in July, when I study the contents of the mail order catalogs, write down the names of the bulbs that interest me, and take that list with me when I drive to a full-service nursery, several miles away from home. Yes, it is time consuming; I devote an entire morning to the trip.

The original intention was to do a price and selection comparison between nursery and mail order. The results were surprising. The nursery offered the identical in-depth assortment that I found in the catalogs, their prices were lower, no shipping charges to be added, and I was able to purchase the exact number of bulbs I wanted without having to deal with catalog pre-packs, that contained more or too little of what I needed.

The photo of the two yellow daffodils, whose name I did not record, nor do I remember, represents the largest bulb, in that family, that I could find at the nursery; and it blooms majestically. It is a reminder for me to stay away from mail order “value packs”.

A few years ago, I purchased one such “deal” from a respected mail order house. I had hoped that a large quantity of fifty assorted daffodil bulbs would fill up swaths of empty spaces in early spring flowerbeds. I was wrong! Fifteen percent of the bulbs arrived rotted, twenty percent never bloomed and those that did flower have been smaller by comparison to the ones that I select myself at the nursery.

However, not everyone lives in reasonable proximity to a full service nursery. For some, the inventory and pricing found at a big box store will be sufficient. For others, mail order is the only convenient source to purchase plant material, irrespective of price or value. Why, even I purchased my very first plants by post. For many years, the catalog served a text book for my introduction to gardening.


Allium Alert: About Those Tall Purple Balls.

Allium Purple Sensation

 Price sticker shock is what happens when unsuspecting gardeners attempt to purchase the impressive Allium bulbs known as Gigantium or Globemaster. The cost per bulb is high. Now, there is an antidote for this trauma. It is the Allium bulb Purple Sensation, a better-priced, better-valued option.

Allium Purple Sensation in my garden I planted it in my flowerbeds last autumn and the effect in spring, when it came into bloom, was dazzling.

Purple Allium, of any size, flower in shades that are ideal for English-style flower gardens; they will also add depth and richness to hot colored flowerbeds, as one can see above on the cover of Sara Raven's book, The Bold and Brilliant Garden. circumference of A. Purple Sensation's flowering sphere [about the size of a tennis ball] is half the size of the larger varieties and its height of three feet places it mid way between A. Gigantium and A. Globemaster. With those technical specs, why pay about $8 to $14 for one giant bulb when 10 Purple Sensation bulbs cost only $10 and give the gardener equally exciting visuals? [Plant Purple Sensation in repeating groups of three or five, or in a serpentine row of five or seven bulbs]. When it flowers, its stately posture and long blooming globes are just as eye catching as their giant cousins.

This affordable variety combines elegant, vertical structure with substantial, rounded forms that, together with its rich coloration, bring exciting novelty to traditional flowerbeds., after the flowering ball has gone to seed, [image above] it continues to add interesting textural form to the garden until mid-summer, when it begins to look scraggly [an appropriate time to cut it down]. Planting Purple Sensation is akin to thinking outside the proverbial box. am not the only gardener that has stumbled across this marvelous substitute. In an attempt to purchase more Purple Sensation for my clients - because they are all clamoring for those purple balls - I discovered that two of the more prominent bulb sellers in Canada, Veseys and Botanus are now sold-out of this popular bulb. In addition, three significant nurseries in the greater Montreal area, as well as three major big box garden centers, are inventory-depleted of this Allium variety. Clearly, more gardeners - than anyone might have guessed - are discovering this very impressive bargain bulb.

Image:, by patiently scrolling through Google, I was able to find another online source here in Canada, called Campbell River Garden Centre, located on the west coast, in British Columbia. They are relatively new to online marketing and I contacted them by phone only because of a technical glitch at check - out. Nevertheless, they had the stock I needed and sent it by mail, only minutes after I called in my order. I am delighted that my three-day, anxious hunt for Purple Sensation has finally ended. I am even more relieved that I can now fill my clients flowerbeds with those tall purple balls at a price that will make them happy.


Tulips are the Original Real Dutch Treat

We are no more than a few weeks away from enjoying the thrill of spring flowering bulbs. Here is a photo tour of a spectacular festival, held every year in the country that made Tulips famous.

On March 18, 2010, in the city of Lisse, in the Netherlands, the Keukenhof Gardens will open its gates for its annual flowering bulb exhibition. By the time they close, eight weeks later, on May 16, 2010, an estimated 800,000 visitors from around the world will have visited this international open-air event. Since the park first opened in 1949, over 43 million people have visited.

The Keukenhof exhibition was the result of the initiative of ten flower bulb growers and exporters who, in 1949, responded to the invitation of Lisse’s mayor to create a ‘showcase’ for the flower bulb industry. For that event, they chose the grounds around Keukenhof Castle. Today, over 100 bulb growers donate supplies to decorate the gardens for this exhibition.

Each year, at pre-selected locations throughout the park, thirty horticulturists hand plant, in freshly designed patterns, 7 million bulbs, donated by the growers. At the end of the season, the bulbs are harvested, and a new cycle of planting, blooming and harvesting begins again in the autumn. In addition to flowering bulbs, this event also showcases perennials, orchids and over 35,000 lilies. Visitors who like what they see are able to place orders on site. In autumn, orders are shipped all over the world in time for planting.

In the 15th century, the grounds of what is now Keukenhof were used as  hunting grounds. Here, vegetables and herbs for the kitchen of the castle of Jacoba van Beieren were also collected; hence the name Keukenhof, which translates into ‘kitchen yard’.

The current park, now planted with over 2,500 trees, was only a section of a sizeable estate that was landscaped by nature with beautiful untamed bushes and dunes. After the death of Jacoba van Beieren, Keukenhof fell into the hands of affluent merchant families who, in 1857, invited prominent landscape architects and designers to create a garden around the castle. This design, primarily in the English landscape style, has always been the basis of Keukenhof.

Keukenhof is the largest bulb park in the world, covering over 75 acres, and 9 miles of footpaths. It is situated in the heart of tulip growing territory between Amsterdam and The Hague, not far from Leiden, an old university town where the first tulip bulb was introduced to the Netherlands in the middle of the 16th century. Lisse is the nearest village to Keukenhof.

For more information, click to visit the Keukenhof official website.



Jump Start the Color Display With Tulips

Choosing and planting Tulip bulbs in the fall to bloom in the spring can be a little trickier than selecting Daffodils. Only a few varieties are perennial. Most of the really pretty tulips have a short life. Plant them only if you don't mind lifting and and replaced them after a few years. That’s a lot of work. Perennial varieties of Tulips return year after year and will show no signs of waning if they are fertilized twice during the growing season.

Here is a list of perennial tulips:- Darwin Hybrids in colors of Red, Rose, Orange, yellow and two-tone, Emperor Tulips, some Triumph tulips, Species tulips, Gregeii tulips. There is a grove of red Kaufmania tulips in my garden that have been reblooming reliably for 15 years. For best results, plant tulip bulbs at least 8 inches deep to encourage them to perform as perennials.

Here‘s what to do to ensure that perennial Tulips bloom for many seasons. After the Tulip flower has finished blooming, cut down the stem and head of the tulip. In addition, cut down all of the foliage of that Tulip except for the one large leaf at the base of the plant; allow that leaf to continue to grow until it turns yellow. At that point in time, it may be discarded or can be camouflaged by summer perennials that will  hide it.

Under normal climatic conditions it is possible to protect Tulip bulbs from being eaten by squirrels. Sprinkle chili pepper flakes [capsicum] directly onto the tulip bulb after it has been placed in its hole. Then sprinkle more flakes on top of the earth after the hole has been filled. When squirrels have no problem foraging for traditional nourishment, the chili flakes are a sufficient deterrent. But be forewarned. In some area of North America this does not dissuade the squirrels. You will only know if it works where you live if you try it.

In the previous two blogs that dealt with spring flowering bulbs that are planted in fall, I recommended easy ways to purchase bulbs. That advice applies to Tulips as well.



Jump Start the Color Display with Daffodils and Narcissus

Daffodils and Narcissus are related bulbs that are planted in the fall for spring blooming long before most perennials begin to stir. They are the easiest spring flowering bulbs to grow. They naturalize well, i.e. each bulb returns the following season in a bigger and lusher clump than the year before. They make great cut flowers and squirrels do not disturb the bulbs once they are planted.

Any kind of Daffodil or Narcissus is welcome and there is no one variety in this genre that is ultimately better or more beautiful than another. The assortment from which to choose is extensive. Some are white, some are yellow and many have colored trumpets in wide assortments of color permutations and combinations. Some bloom early, some medium or late and some are taller or shorter than others.

This plant requires only three simple tasks to ensure quality blooms, season after season. At the beginning of the growing season, when the garden has just popped out of dormancy, fertilize the flower bed with whatever nutrition that has been selected for the rest of the plants growing in the garden. In later spring, after the bulbs have finished blooming, cut down only the stems of the dead flowers. Do not touch the leaves. Allow the leaves to continue to grow until they turn yellow. Then, one has the choice of either removing them if they are unsightly or of ignoring them if they will be camouflaged by perennials growing nearby. Eventually, they will disappear on their own.

If Daffodils and Narcissus bring a smile to your face, by all means, plant your own. Determine your requirements now and make your purchases quickly while the assortments are most extensive and inventories are high. Planting can be done anytime up until the earth freezes over.