Blue bulbs of happiness

For fall planting, tap into the many shades of the sky or sea with flower-collection packs from mail-order companies

September 24, 2005|By Susan Reimer | Susan Reimer,sun reporter

Spring brings immediately to mind the buttery yellow of daffodils and the bright reds and oranges of tulips. And the blue of the sky.

You can plan now to transfer some of that blue sky to your yard with a blue bulb garden.

"Gardeners love blue," said Ava Salman, vice president of High Country Gardens in Santa Fe, N.M. Her company is offering a collection of blue bulb flowers for a preplanned spring garden, and has been gratified by the response.

The package of 90 bulbs includes light and dark blue hyacinth, blue anemone, muscari, iris and the rare blue-eyed wildflower tulip.

"Blue is a popular color, it is just not very common in bulbs," Salman said.

Especially tulips. The true blue tulip is the Holy Grail of bulb hybridizers. Most are closer to purple because of the stubborn reds left in the family tree.

But High Country Gardens offers as part of its Shades of Blue bulb package the unusual blue-eyed Tulipa humilis `Alba Coerulea Oculata.'

"It is a wildflower tulip," said Salman, "and unlike the hybridized tulips, it naturalizes beautifully. It will be back year after year and become more numerous."

A number of mail-order companies are offering blue bulb collections this fall, including John Scheepers of Bantam, Conn.

"Blue is very relaxing. It has a kind of ephemeral feeling in the garden," said Jo-Anne van den Berg-Ohms, whose family has been selling bulbs for generations through the company. "I have gardens that are blue all year long."

The John Scheepers Blue Pearl includes the pale grape hyacinth `Valerie Finnis,' which she calls "one of the most perfect blues in the garden."

She suggests interspersing pure white daffodils and narcissi against the backdrop of lower-growing blue bulbs. "The contrast makes the other varieties in the garden just pop," she said. "Everything seems more vibrant."

Bulb-planting basics

Open the boxes as soon as your bulbs arrive and store them in a cool, dry place with good ventilation until you are ready to plant.

Plant as soon as the weather is consistently cool, but before the ground is frozen, and choose a sunny spot in well-drained, semi-sandy soil. A bulb planter is good for larger bulbs, but a dipple is best for small bulbs.

After planting, broadcast some 7-10-5 or bulb fertilizer over your bulb bed. Never use compost manure or other "hot" fertilizers. Bulbs contain all the food the flower will need, but fertilizer helps the root system grow.

As soon as cold weather arrives, mulch with straw, salt marsh hay or oak leaves. Mulching will help retain moisture and stabilize soil temperature.

Be ready to fertilize again in the spring as soon as sprouts emerge and again after the flowers die. This helps feed the bulb during the critical photosynthesis process.

And remember, never cut back the fading foliage. The leaves are gathering the sunlight needed to feed the bulb.

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

Sources

Shades of Blue collection from High Country Gardens. 90 bulbs, $56.44. Visit highcountrygardens.com or call 800-925-9387

The Cool Shades Garden collection from Breck's. 87 bulbs, $44.99. Visit brecks.com or call 513-354-1511

The Blue Pearl Cover Special collection from John Scheepers. 170 bulbs, $50.95. Visit johnscheepers.com or call 860-567-0838

The Blue and White Bulb Garden from Dutch Gardens. 82 bulbs, $39.95. Visit dutchgardens.com or call 888-821-0448

The All Lavender and Blue Garden from Van Engelen. 290 bulbs, $82.25. Visit vanengelen.com or call 860-567-8734

Rhapsody in Blue from White Flower Farm. 100 bulbs, $26.50. Visit whiteflowerfarm.com or call 800-503-9624

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