UNITED STATES—Of all the gardening chores, planting dormant bulbs is probably the least gratifying. All we do is dig a hole to the required depth and width, set a few unimpressively dormant bulbs with the correct orientation and spacing, and then fill the hole with the same soil that was removed from it. The process gets repeated until all the bulbs are planted. Soil amendment and fertilizer might be added.
There is nothing to show for our efforts. When finished, only bare soil remains. We might want to plant flowering annuals or a light duty ground cover over the bulbs, or we might just spread mulch. If soil amendment is needed, it should be mixed into the soil at the bottom of the planting holes. Fertilizer can get dispersed over the surface of the soil after planting. There really is not much to it.
Planting bulbs is also a chore that is easy to forget about until it is too late. If we do not see them in nurseries, we might not think about daffodil, narcissus, hyacinth, grape hyacinth, freesia, tulip, crocus, lily, anemone, ranunculus, iris or other spring bulbs until we see them blooming next spring. Yet, this is when their dormant bulbs, corms, rhizomes, tubers and tuberous roots get planted.
Many types of bulbs become available in nurseries at the same time, and can be planted as soon as they become available. It might be too early to plant those that are not yet available. Gladiola, dahlia, allium, calla and canna are summer bulbs that will become available later because they likely should get planted later, although calla and canna do not seem to care when they get planted.
Daffodil, narcissus and grape hyacinth are probably the most reliable spring bulbs for naturalizing. Bearded iris is likewise very reliable, but needs to be dug, split and groomed every few years. Freesia and crocus may not naturalize as reliably. Lily, tulip, anemone, ranunculus and hyacinth are spectacular in spring, but are unlikely to naturalize because they prefer more of a chill in winter.
Some bulbs can be phased in their first year. For example, if freesia flowers are expected to last about a week, a second group of bulbs can be planted about a week after the first. A third group can be planted about a week after the second, and so on for a few weeks until the planting season ends. As the first group finishes bloom in spring, the second group begins to bloom, and so on.
Highlight: cork oak
Like redwoods, the cork oak, Quercus suber, is a ‘pyrophyte,’ which means that it survives forest fires that burn off competing vegetation. The trunks and main limbs are insulated with a very thick bark. Only the foliage and smaller stems burn off. After a fire, the upper limbs of cork oak regenerate new foliage while other less fortunate plants start over from their roots or seed at ground level.
The thick bark is really what cork oak is grown for. It is used for corks, gaskets, flooring, notice boards, cricket ball cores and too many other products to list. It is also quite handsome on the stout trunks and limbs of landscape trees. If only the acorns were not so messy, cork oak would be a nice drought tolerant street tree with complacent roots. The hazy evergreen leaves are about two inches long. Old trees eventually get almost 50 feet tall.
Horticulturist Tony Tomeo can be contacted at tonytomeo.wordpress.com.