Archive for September, 2008

Naturalizing Bulbs

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

Planting Bulbs That Last!

We all know fall is the time to plant those bulbs for spring flowers. Most of our favorite bulbs will bloom a year, maybe three if you are fortunate and then die, never to return. However, there a group of bulbs that naturalize, meaning they acclimate to our harsher New England weather patterns and with the proper care and conditions, return year after year.

Over the years, this column has covered the Narcissus family, along with grape hyacinths, extensively as naturalizers, and indeed, this columnist has planted literally thousands of mixed Narcissus/daffodils  in and around Pelham with the Pelham Preservation and Garden Society that still return every spring despite being cut back to early and receiving little or no care.

In addition to the bulbs above, there are groups of smaller woodland bulbs that naturalize as well. These bloom from early February weather permitting) to as late as April. Woodland bulbs tend to be smaller and less showy than daffodils and though not so well suited for viewing from afar, are ideal for smaller more intimate garden areas.


A plethora of little bulbs is superb from late February or early March into early May, like

·         the common Galanthus nivalis and its sturdier counterpart, G. elwesii

·         the apple-green-leaved G. ikariae,

·         Spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum)

·         winter aconite (Eranthis hiemalis). Its yellow flowers are a bright grace note to the spring woods. Scilla

·         Chionodoxa

·         grape hyacinths.

·         Guinea hen flower(Fritillaria meleagris)

·         Shade Tolerant Crocus tommasiniannus.

·         C. tommasinianus ‘Taplow Ruby’ and ‘Whitwell Purple’,

These can be ordered individually from specialty growers or in woodland groups from growers like Van Bourgiendien and Burpee seed. If you want some free samples of naturalizing woodland bulbs, come to Franklin Field Saturday, October 4th ,between 8:30 and 11:00 am where representatives from Greener by Design will be giving samples  away with more information on fall planting.

Think About Your Lawn This Fall

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Fall Is  A Great time For Over Seeding

If your lawn took a little bit of a beating this summer, as did mine, this is a great time to over seed it. Generally we all think of spring as seed time, but when it comes to lawns, fall is pretty ideal as well. First, weed your lawn and get out all those undesirable daisies, sedge grasses, crab grasses and anything else that does not belong there. Next figure out if you need sun or shade, or a sun shade mix.  Application rates for over seeding are about half of what is recommended for a new lawn.

Get yourself a seed spreader. If you don’t want to spring for a push spreader, a little hand spreader is just fine for this job. Over seed the whole lawn laying seed a little thicker in blank spots. Next put a thin layer of composted topsoil. Many folks like to use peat moss for this, but always remember that peat moss will make the soil more acidic. If your soil needs to be more acidic this is not a bad thing, but most of our lawns tend to be a little on the acid sign as it is. Overly acidic soil will inhibit the seeds form sprouting and encourage certain weeds. For example, if you tend to get a lot of dandelions, your soil is most likely on the acid side already; however, if you get plantain weed (big round low leaves) then your soil is alkaline and can stand a little peat moss.

Next most important step is making sure you water the freshly seeded lawn at least once a day. Seeds need damp soil to germinate. If it’s unseasonably warm like it was last week, you might want to water twice a week. Don’t cut the lawn for a good three weeks and avoid foot traffic. This will allow the seedlings, which are very tender, time to root and grow strong.

Consider looking for specialty seeds. There are new varieties of bluegrass and fescues that are very drought tolerant and generally use less water than the standard grasses we find at the big box stores. These are available on line for the most part; I haven’t seen them in stores yet. If you keep over seeding with these new tougher grasses, over the next year or two, they will eventually out compete the weaker grasses you have already established.