Nothing says “spring” quite like the emergence of daffodils! I love how their cheerful yellow faces banish the gloom of winter and announce the hopefulness of sunshine and warmer weather. Although it may be difficult to think spring when the holidays are right around the corner, now is the time to plant these harbingers of spring: tulips, daffodils, crocuses, hyacinth and grape hyacinths.
When to plant? Now is the time! To bloom well, spring-flowering bulbs need a cooling period of 12-16 weeks. In the Nashville area, bulbs should be planted in November/December after cold weather is here to stay. I have planted daffodils as late as the first week of January and still had blooms, but that is pushing it. If you buy bulbs early, before cold weather, store them in a cool dry dark place (refrigerator) until you can plant them.
What to plant? Daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, and grape hyacinths are great investments because they will come back for more than one season. Choose carefully though, because not all varieties will re-bloom. For flowers that will come back year after year, choose one that says it will “naturalize,” meaning it will multiply and spread. Sarah Lowe, botanical garden and horticulture manager at Cheekwood, recommends the following daffodils for naturalizing in Middle Tennessee: Accent, Carlton, Cheerfulness, Delibes, February Gold, Geranium, Ice Follies, King Alfred, Mount Hood, Spellbinder, and Tete-e-Tete. Carlton, Delibes, Ice Follies, and Geranium (very fragrant) are my favorites.
Tulips put on a spectacular show, and the colors and forms that are now available are amazing. Unfortunately, you cannot count on them to perform more than one season, so they must be replanted each year. In our area, too many critters like to eat them, and our heavy clay soils cause them to rot. Deer will eat tulip blossoms and foliage, so don’t make a big investment if you have deer problems. All that being said, they are so beautiful, they are still worth planting.
Where to plant? Mass plant bulbs in large beds for a big show, or plant in small groups of 5-10 bulbs, scattered here and there under trees for a more natural look. A large irregular paintbrush-swath of Daffodils in the lawn, especially on a hillside, is lovely. But keep in mind that you won’t be able to mow the grass in that area for several weeks. Wherever you plant bulbs, you must let the foliage die naturally after bloom. This may be unsightly for a time, but it is necessary to re-energize the bulb for the next year’s bloom.
Yellow daffodils planted with smaller purple grape hyacinth make a colorful combination. Plant larger and extremely fragrant hyacinths near your garage or home entrance so you can enjoy their outstanding fragrance as you walk by. Because spring bulbs bloom when the weather is still quite chilly, plant them where you will see them from indoors, visible outside your favorite window view.
How to plant? Bulbs should be planted as deep as three times its height. For larger bulbs, that is about 6 inches deep. Dig a hole wide enough to plant the number of bulbs you wish. Lay them in the bottom of the hole spaced about 4 inches apart, with the pointed end up. Cover loosely with soil. Or you may dig individual holes with one to three bulbs each, which works well if you’re planting among established plants or in ground cover. Don’t plant in areas that stay soggy because the bulbs will rot. Locate bulbs any place that gets early spring sunshine (even under trees: leaves will shade them in early spring).
Why plant? Bulbs are one of the easiest, most cost-efficient ways to bring wonderful color into your landscape at a time when we all need it to chase away the gloom of winter! Happy planting! —By Ann Jackson
Editor’s Note: Ann Jackson is director of sales, marketing, and creative interpretation for Turf Managers, LLC. in Nashville. An avid gardener, Ann is also a certified lawn and horticultural professional through the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and provides design services for commercial and residential landscapes and flower beds. E-mail your questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.