Published Sept. 9, 2018, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle . Also published Sept. 10, 2018, at Wyoming Network News, https://www.wyomingnetworknews.com/fall-planted-bulbs-start-spring-early.
Fall-planted bulbs start spring early
By Barb Gorges
I made a list of spring bulbs to plant this fall at the Habitat Hero demonstration garden at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens.
And then I looked at how the perennials we planted at the end of July were doing. The 450 black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) and 450 other assorted prairie-type plants got hit with hail. Most are fine, except the Rudbeckia, reduced to tough sticks with hail scars, though a few still had blooms on top, but either no leaves or new leaves nibbled back.
Rabbits?! My Rudbeckia at home survived hail and they have plenty of leaves despite cottontails napping nearby.
Gardening somewhere besides home is like trying to give another parent child-rearing advice: what you know may not work for someone else or somewhere else.
I’m wondering if it will be a waste to plant anything besides daffodils which are known to be somewhat deer and rabbit resistant. Or maybe plant alfalfa as a cover crop so the rabbits have something better to eat. At least we will have plenty of bare places to plant bulbs this fall.
Below are my picks for a Habitat Hero spring-blooming bulb garden, designed to provide flowers early for bees, and to be self-propagating from year to year, or “naturalizing” or “perennializing” as they say in catalogs.
In each category I picked the cheapest bulbs which, as Laramie County Master Gardener Michelle Bohanan agrees, is a good indication of how hardy and easy they are to grow.
Some bulbs have a reputation for being deer, rabbit and rodent resistant. All are rated for wintering one or two horticultural zones colder than Cheyenne’s zone 5.
Bloom times are relative depending on spring weather. Microclimates, either hotter (next to a south-facing wall) or colder (north-facing), can make a difference, also. And I looked at color, trying to predict what bulbs might bloom at the same time.
Most spring bulbs are native to the Mediterranean or parts of central Asia with cold and dry climates like Wyoming’s, so it’s easy to be successful with bulbs. I have most of these in my own garden, though not the exact varieties.
- Species tulip, Tulipa turkestanica, blooms March/April, 8 inches tall, ivory petals with orangish bases, naturalizes.
- Species or snow crocus mix, March/April, 4 inches, white, blue, yellow, violet, deer resistant, naturalizes.
- Iris reticulata mix, early April, 4 to 6 inches, blue, purple, yellow, naturalizes.
- Siberian squill, Scilla siberica, April, 5 inches, blue, naturalizes, deer and rodent resistant.
- Glory of the Snow, Chionodoxa, April, 5-6 inches, blues, naturalizing, deer and rodent-resistant, multiple flowers per bulb.
- Large cupped daffodils, April, 18-20 inches, yellow, naturalizes, deer, rodent and rabbit resistant. These varieties are the most popular of the 13 divisions of daffodils and are available all over town.
- Grape hyacinth, Muscari armeniacum, April/May, 6 inches, blue, naturalizes, deer resistant. Other Muscari species are white and even pale pink.
- Species tulip, Tulipa linifolia, May, 6 inches, red, naturalizes.
- Single late (Darwin) tulip, May, 22-30 inches, all kinds of plain and blended colors available. These are the most popular tulips and most available in local stores.
- Allium oreophilum (flowering onion), May/June, 6-8 inches, deep rose. All the alliums, including the giant purple globes I’ve had rebloom for several years, are rabbit, rodent and deer resistant, and popular with bees. But not all allium varieties return reliably.
I’m skipping a multitude of tulip types. Some, like fosteriana, kaufmanniana and gregii are good naturalizers and survive our spring snowstorms. Others are advertised as good cutting flowers to be pulled and then replaced by summer annuals: parrot, double early, viridiflora, triumph.
If not available locally, the varieties I’ve mentioned might be available from catalogs like www.johnscheepers.com. Directions with each order or package will tell you how deep and how far apart to plant each kind of bulb.
Let’s hope the bunnies at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens give the bulbs a break.
Laramie County Master Gardener Fall Bulb Sale deadline Sept. 21, 2018
This year Kathy Shreve put together three bulb collections for the Laramie County Master Gardener bulb sale. All the bulb varieties are available individually as well. One collection, the “Pollinator Buffet,” looks good for Habitat Hero gardens.
You can find the order form and photos of the selections at http://www.lcmg.org/event/2018-bulb-sale/.
Orders, with payment, must be mailed or turned in by 5 p.m., Sept. 21, to the Extension office at Laramie County Community College.
Bulbs will be available for pickup Oct. 20 at the Laramie County Library, 2200 Pioneer Ave.
Contact Kathy at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.