Questions We're Often Asked: Planting Bulbs


By —— Bio and Archives--September 2, 2017

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Are ‘bulbs’ actually bulbs? Not always, although it is accepted parlance in the gardening world to call any root storage organ such. Actually, there are ‘true’ bulbs such as daffodils and tulips, corms like crocus, tubers as with dahlias, and rhizomes such as canna. Some are just plain confusing—iris, for example, depending on species, may arise from bulbs or rhizomes. And as a matter of interest, if you’ve eaten onion or potato this week, you’ve consumed a bulb and a tuber. Sprinkled turmeric in curry and that’s rhizome while taro comes from a corm—which is also what a banana plant grows from

Diversion No. 1

It was ‘a costly lesson learned,’ said Thunder Bay Fire Rescue district chief John Kaplanis, adding nobody was hurt and nobody was stung by a wasp. Fire crews were called to a home on Rockwood Avenue after a man poured gasoline on a nest and set it on fire, only to ignite the home and nest attached to it, explained CBC News

Lighting the garden at night may be both ornamental and discourage thieves. But it does nothing for nocturnal pollinating insects, research Eva Knop and her colleagues has demonstrated. Their study, published in Nature, showed that in such gardens, nocturnal visits to plants were reduced by 62% compared to dark areas. Notably, this resulted in an overall 13% reduction in fruit set even with visits from diurnal pollinators. Artificial light joins habitat changes, intensive agriculture, pesticides, invasive alien species, spread of pathogens and climate changes in causing pollinator decline worldwide, suggest the authors of the study.

Diversion No. 2

Canada’s wild ginseng is under threat from poachers, reported CBC News. Conservation officers in Ontario and Quebec are using surveillance and other techniques to try to outsmart thieves bent on digging up Canada’s most endangered plant. Poaching poses the greatest threat to wild American ginseng, which can sell for anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars per root depending on its shape and size. A single root the size of an adult male’s finger can fetch up to $1,000.

Saffron is literally blooming gold—in recent years more expensive. Commercial growers may be found from Tasmania in the Land of Oz to the nether regions near Ottawa, Canada. Crocus sativus is no more difficult to grow than its cousins the ornamental varieties. Six plants produce enough for one recipe, advises the every-useful Richters catalogue. They do warn that, while ‘easy to grow,’ ‘north of Zone 6 overwinter indoors in a cool place.’ Increasing popularity suggests ordering early for September-October shipment. Richters offers 10 corms for $15, 100 for $90. Plant as soon after receiving as possible. Like snowdrops, they tend to dry out easily.

Diversion No. 3

It might seem like as tomato plant and a subway system don’t have much in common, but both, it turns out, are networks that strive to make similar trade-offs between cost and performance. Using 3D laser scans and growing plants, Salk scientists found that the same series of universal design principals that humans use to engineer networks like subways also guide the shape of plant branching architectures. The work appeared in the journal Cell Systems.

The foliage of grape hyacinths, Muscari, often emerges soon after they have been planted. Daffodils and narcissus occasionally exhibit the same proclivities. This worries novice gardeners. It shouldn’t. Leave well enough alone—the plants will take care of themselves and still put on a show next spring.

Diversion No. 4

California wants to go beyond even President Barack Obama’s proposals on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, such as methane gas from manure piles. But can the state pull it off, wonders The New York Times? Surely a case of ‘non compost mentist’

Apple Dumpling Day falls on 17th September, the same day, coincidentally, that is National Eat an Apple. Why then do we have to wait until the 28th of the month for it to be Johnny Appleseed Day? Never mind—Mayflower Day is celebrated on 16th September when certain wannabe settlers who, upon landing are said to have first “fell upon their knees then fell upon the natives.”

Friday 22nd September marks the first day of fall, but as an anonymous versifier would have it:

There was a young fellow named Hall
Who fell in the spring in the fall.
‘Twould be a sad thing
Had he died in the spring,
But he didn’t—he died in the fall

‘When I pass a flowering zucchini plant in a garden, my heart skips a beat.’ Gwyneth Paltrow (b. 27 September 1972 Los Angeles UC dropout)


Continued below...

Questions We’re Often Asked: Planting Bulbs

Spring-flowering bulbs may be grown in good, well-drained loam free of competition from tree or shrub roots. Shade offered by nearby deciduous trees is not a problem as these will not have leafed out prior to the bulbs flowering. Soil around conifers, however, tends to be too full of roots to offer a suitable site.

Especially of smaller, early flowering species, massed plantings look best. As with all plantings, odd numbers will appear the most “natural.” (Why bulbs are almost invariably packaged in even numbers makes no sense to us either.) Position scented varieties close to frequently used access ways to fully appreciate the perfume.

Do you need to apply fertilizer? Why? The flower buds are already formed in the bulbs. Next spring, following flowering though, most definitely.

Deter squirrels by gently shaking the bulbs in a paper bag with a spoonful or two of powdered pepper before planting. In severe cases, spread chicken netting over the beds until the ground freezes sold.

Tulip and narcissus bulbs imported into Ireland from the Netherlands may be acting as vehicles for the international spread of a drug-resistant fungus—with potential fatal consequences. Experts advise people not to plant bulbs near hospitals or to gift them to at-risk patients, warned the journal Clinical Infectious Disease last May


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Wes Porter -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Wes Porter is a horticultural consultant and writer based in Toronto. Wes has over 40 years of experience in both temperate and tropical horticulture from three continents.

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