think fall (yes, fall): part 2


SO YOU ALREADY HEARD that the secret to making a year-round garden is to think all seasons, all the time. Yes, yes, I know it’s very un-Buddhist to be outside the moment (and believe me, I realize these things as I write my posts and worry about myself). But whether in the “be here now” or not, here’s my next tip:

Think fall right now, as in mark in your beds where you need more bulbs, placing discreet labels where the “holes” are, and place your bulb order today. The bonus (besides ordering the right things and knowing where to put them when they arrive without piercing anything that’s since gone dormant when you dig): You get a 10 percent discount at all the bulb companies for orders placed early. Check my Sources list for favorite vendors. Do it now.

(Those are my cutting tulips up top, which I grow in my raised vegetable beds and replace every few years. The beautiful stinker at the end is the crown imperial, Fritillaria imperialis, a swell skunky-smelling thing I wouldn’t be without.)

  fritillaria imperialis

Categoriesbulbs woo woo
  1. Layanee says:

    Your are right to think about bulbs right now! I have already made some notes (mental, which are usually forgotten) but will start looking through the catalogs. Even just six tulips in the border provide such a spot of bright color one shouldn’t be without them! Love your cutting tulips. I was trying to find some nice Rembrandt’s to take to a friends for dinner and they are hard to find even at the flower markets! Cutting tulip garden! Great idea! I’m finding red lily leaf beetle on my small fritillaries and lilies so I’m not sure about that investment in those Crown Imperials. They are stunning though.

  2. Melanie says:

    Hi Margaret, thanks so much for leaving a comment on my blog. I was able to follow it back and find my way here. It’s always nice to find another great gardening blog and now I’m going to get another cup of coffee and sit and have a good read.

  3. margaret says:

    Welcome! I grew up on Long Island and worked at Newsday, as I mentioned, so your blog made me think of many great nurseries, gardens, times.

  4. Maria Nation says:

    Great idea to leave a little marker for the bare spots – and order now! Every year I think: oh, remember to get extra [fill in the blank] for this spot here. and then gardening season hits and I don’t even BREATHE until fall – and I’ve forgotten all those “don’t forget” mental notes.

    Just had another idea: take a digital shot of the garden now specifically of the bare spot that needs some bulbs. then it will be documented.

    Thanks Margaret! Another great idea.

    ps: I had dinner last night with Dan Shaw and he said he’s meeting w/ you today. Lucky Dan!

  5. margaret says:

    Dear Miss Farmgirl,
    That is a good question…and at first nothing came to me. So many flower bulbs are native to places like Turkey, Uzbekistan..so everything I thought of was from somewhere else.
    A moment later, I thought aha!, there are native American bulbs, but to other areas of the country: like Camassia (from the Pacific Northwest). But then of course I recalled that all areas of the country including the Northeast have native lilies (like Lilium canadense) and we also have trout lilies in our woods in spring, Erythronium americanum. The tricky part is that catalogs sell many lilies and various trout lilies…so you have to read the fine (Latin) print if you want something truly regionally native.
    Among smashing bulb-like natives are the Trilliums (which grow from rhizomes, as do many of popular “flower bulbs” in the catalogs). Similarly we have a native iris, I. versicolor, in Canada and the Northeast (and many native to other parts of the U.S.).
    So now you have got me thinking and I will have to do more of it and maybe even some research. But I’d start by looking at lilies and trout lilies to identify ones that are appropriate near you.

  6. High Valley Farmgirl says:

    Can you recommend some native bulbs for fall planting? Is there such a thing as a native bulb?

    Thank you Miss M.

  7. Linda MacPhee-Cobb says:

    Oh, I miss my tulips and crown imperials. I’m trying to make do with amaryllis as spring bulbs.

  8. margaret says:

    I take it that perhaps you are a transplant form North to South????
    Welcome, Linda, to A Way to Garden. Of course those of us still “up here” think amaryllis as spring bulbs sounds mighty good.
    The grass is always greener…

  9. Randy says:

    My problem is I put bulbs in the ground, forget where I put them and end up digging them up while planting something else. I try and put out those little plant stakes and I’ve been very good about it the past year and a half, but now my garden is starting to look like a huge blooming patch of white, plastic thought bubbles.

  10. margaret says:

    Good point, Randy–and very well expressed. Thought bubbles! ;-)
    I am using short pieces of natural-colored bamboo these days, cut from longer bamboo canes with my pruning shears. And then I make a crude little “map” of what each small cane shoved into the ground means.
    Or as Maria Nation says, record it on a digital photo (and make notes what each bit of bamboo means).
    I say natural bamboo because I find it disappears among the foliage better than white plastic. I leave less than 6 inches above-ground.

  11. Terri Clark says:

    Through you Margaret, I found Brent and Becky’s bulbs and I am in heaven to almost have my hands on Tulipa acuminata and that wonderful brown frittilaria and more. Ironically my friend Tom (he owns beautiful Southlands Nursery here) just told me that Brent & Becky just visited Vancouver a few weeks ago so now even we, north of the 49th parallelers, will get a crack at these more choice bulb specimens.
    Question: when I was at my friend’s garden in Wales in early June last year his very perennial Tulipa sprengerii was a stream of scarlet bloom in his woodland. Never see these bulbs for sale anywhere and how nice to have such a late comer and repeater year after year. He said they were easy from seed. Any information on that from your corner??

  12. margaret says:

    Another interesting bulb question that got me thinking in the recesses of memory and clicking around the internet from there.
    Apparently this tulip has an unusual commercial history, which you can read about on the site of the Pacific Bulb Society (see below).
    The adventurous way to get seeds is to join one of the various membership organizations that list it in their member seed sales, like North American Rock Garden Society, Alpine Garden Society in the UK, or the Pacific Bulb Society.
    Easier still would be to order from the English catalog of Chiltern Seeds (but sometimes the adventurous route is more fun, and educational, as above).
    The tulip history article is on the Pacific Bulb Society wiki, at this link.
    Hope that helps.

  13. Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening says:

    I am surprised you do not have Odyssey Bulbs on your Resource List. You won’t find your traditional tulips or daffs there, but you will find things no one else has. And also David Burdick Daffodils for truly exquisite narcissus. I have also employed the mark-in-spring-for-fall-planting, but I used truly garish, can’t-be-missed, el cheapo tent stakes to mark the area to be planted. The foliage of surrounding plants covered them until fall, and they were unmistakeable.

  14. margaret says:

    Welcome, Kathy. Dave Burdick is my neighbor, in fact, and some of the oldest shrubs on my property are things he helped me plant a million years ago when he worked at a local nursery. Good memories. A lovely, gentle man.
    He has great things, but definitely for the collector. Ditto Odyssey, a select list of unusual items. Martha did a TV segment about them not so long ago.

  15. Denise Haddad says:

    Hi Margaret
    i’m new to gardening but i would love to plant tulips in my garden , when is the best time to plant them ?? i’m from the middle east and the wheather here in april isn’t that hot till after mid may . and the soil is bit dry most of the time so what can i add to it to give me better flowers ?
    and i was wondering if you could give me some tips of what i can plant now ?? i want it to be colorful with flowers that will grow back every year
    . Thank you : )

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Denise. I am not very well-versed in gardening in your region :) but tulips originated in Turkey and Jordan and thereabouts, long before the Dutch got hold of them and made them into fancy garden flowers. Here’s a story about the history of the tulip, for your information. They require a cold period in winter to flower well in spring; here we plant them in fall, so that they can have that cold period in the outdoors to get ready to bloom. I am sorry not to have any resources or details to recommend.

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