In the Garden:
Mid-Atlantic
December, 2008
Regional Report

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Layering daffies and tulips in large pots will bring a beautiful spring surprise.

Pots of Spring

Workshops for making holiday wreaths, table centerpieces, tree decorations, evergreen swags, gingerbread houses, and cookies fill the December calendar. Fortunately, I have several friends who are sooo much better at baking and decorative crafts than I am. They're eager to share fresh-baked, cinnamon-sugared snickerdoodles and frosted, sprinkle-topped butter cookies.
And happy, too, to supply the festive noble fir wreath with red ribbon streamers and golden-flecked pine cones.

We're all up for celebrating around the solstice -- perhaps more modestly and budgetwise than in recent years. Winter's cold, however, is already making me long for spring. So I grabbed my gardening gloves at the opportunity to continue planting bulbs -- spring-flowering bulbs in containers at a gardening workshop affiliated with The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS).

Thirty gardeners and teachers packed the auditorium to learn about bulbs before moving to the workshop room to plant. Dr. Cheryl Henry Creely of Bache-Martin School in Philadelphia was excited at the idea of pots with flowers blooming at different times, called successive flowering. "I teach mentally gifted students," she explained. "We want to do something inside -- so I came to learn container gardening. This is a wonderful idea. In spring we'll have beautiful containers throughout our building." Many schools, including hers, have outdoor gardening programs, she added. Indoor gardening, especially to beautify, is less common.

For a succession of colors and blooms from March into May, we layered five varieties of spring-bloomers in 12-inch or larger plastic pots. Narcissus 'Bridal Crown' (double white with saffron flowers), Tulipa 'Come Back' (red), windflower (Anemone blanda) 'Blue Shades', Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) (white bells with green spots), and grape hyacinth (Muscari armenaicum) 'Blue Spike.'

Vernalize Outside
This is not forcing bulbs indoors. These large plastic pots take winter cover on the north side of a building in the shade under heaps of leaves, mulch, bark, or finished (warmish, not hot) compost. Uniform cool is the key -- so the bulbs neither freeze hard nor sprout in an early thaw. The bulbs need low temps (35 to 45 degrees for about 10 to 12 weeks) to vernalize, that is, to stir buds to flower.

We planted in a 50/50 combination of soilless mix and richer potting soil. First we put a paper towel over the pot holes to keep soil from flowing out with water. Then we made a 3- to 6-inch soil base, depending on pot depth. We planted daffies 6 to 8 inches deep -- 3 times bulb height. Tulips 6 to 8 inches deep. Summer snowflake 4 to 6 inches deep. Grape hyacinth, windflower, and crocus 2 to 3 inches deep.

All except the windflower were easy to place -- pointy side up, root side down. Windflower (anemone) corms need to be soaked overnight before planting. As it's difficult so see evidence of stem or root, plant corms at a right angle. The roots will pull them down.


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