Friday, September 5, 2008

It's time for fall geophytes

Presuming Hannah (the Tropical Storm) comes through for us we could get significant rain. They say up to 7". Aside from making watering easier for the next few weeks if not the rest of the season, even 3" of rain would be enough to get the fall bulbs started and even, absent future rain, to bring them into bloom. Colchicum, Crocus spp., Sternbergia, Cyclamen...I'm probably missing a few, but they're fun bulbs. They are unusual in that you can plant them now, just before they bloom. This is because they stored up energy and formed buds last winter/spring and have been dormant all summer. Since it is a drought dormancy they can go right into the ground now and flower in the next month.

I planted 6 Colchicum, two varieties three each, at the Library last week. I'll dig some clumps of Crocus speciosus from the Adelphi garden, divide them, and move some to the Library when they appear; that ought to be later this week. We have accumulated some different varieties over the years and it would be doing the clumps a favor to divide them. Though I don't remember having ever transplanting Autumn Crocus before flowering, I have done it with the spring flowering types with no ill effects. I am sure this will work out. I'll move some Sternbergia too. Maybe the Friends of the Beltsville Library will buy some Cyclamen. I'm sure they will. Once planted, the bulbs will steadily multiply over the years and produce new propagules for moving into new spaces.

Over the years I have done designs for Schools, Churches, Orginizations and have always enjoyed it. The people involved are always gardeners, always enthusiastic, and almost always display a level of patience that is less common in homeowners or business owners. A good garden takes time to develop. You have to site the plants in such a way that when they reach maturity they are not crowding themselves, the hardscape, or the people who visit the garden. Even though these gardens are always managed by committee, as a "client" they seem always to be quite receptive to these requirements.

Planting these, less common, geophytes in such a conspicuous public space will, I hope, suggest them as options for visitor's their own gardens. Fall bulbs are one of the easiest, most exciting, least utilized groups of plants in the garden. Though sometimes cyclamen are eaten, as a general rule once you plant these guys all you have to do is....well nothing.

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