Hardy bulbs belong in every cutting garden. These plants are very easy to grow. In addition, they require very little attention—a real bonus for busy floral designers.
When choosing and planting bulbs, there are several factors to consider.
First, be sure the ones you choose are suited to your area. This usually pertains to the hardiness zone. For those living in the South, it may mean selecting special varieties for warmer conditions. In a few cases, there is a southernmost limit for certain kinds.
Let’s look at a few examples. Peonies love cold weather. In fact, they need some cold temperatures in order to break dormancy. Therefore, they won’t grow very well south of zone 7.
Something similar happens to tulips. Unless otherwise stated in the catalog, most tulips will not do well in zones 8-10. Gardeners in those areas can either buy pre-chilled bulbs, or pre-cool them in a refrigerator fir 6-8 weeks.
The depth and spacing for bulbs varies greatly from one species and variety to another. For this information, you should refer directly to the catalog you’re ordering from or from the bulb package. As a general rule, large bulbs like daffodils and tulips are usually planted deeper than small ones.
So far as the spacing is concerned, I would give them more room than what the catalog or package lists. In a flowerbed or landscape, you want lots of color, which means closer spacing. On the other hand, for a cutting garden we want each bulb to reach its full potential without competition from other plants.
The time of planting is also an issue. In the North, this can begin earlier than in the South. Usually, you want to wait until fall arrives when the temperatures are more moderate. These plants need cool temperatures.
For best results, I apply one of the special bulb fertilizers at the time of planting. After that, I use it once a year in the fall. Some people are accustomed to using bone meal, but this doesn’t provide all the nutrients needed by the bulbs.
Choosing the best spot for your bulbs is important. Normally, cutting gardens are located in well-drained areas. So this isn’t usually an issue. If you are just starting your cut flower garden, be sure the soil doesn’t remain constantly wet. Many plants—especially bulbs—don’t like that kind of situation.
As with most cut flowers, most bulbs prefer full sun. Exceptions are the flowering or ornamental onions, which grow quite well in partial shade. Camass, and the windflowers—also known as anemones—are also suited to shade. Usually if the bulbs are adapted to shade, this will be mentioned in the catalog.
So far as care is concerned, some bulbs may need watering if summer drought occurs. But there are some exceptions to this. For example, tulips like to be dry over the summer when they enter their rest period.
Under normal circumstances, the bulbs should be the most carefree of all the cutting garden plants. Avoid removing the foliage before it turns completely brown.
Choose a good spot for your bulbs, and select the right ones for your area. After that, cut flower gardeners will find these plants are low-maintenance.