planting bulbs for mom's birthday, need advice

phantom_white(6)May 24, 2013

Hi everyone,
Hoping I can get some advice for how to go about building a cut flower garden for my mom as a birthday present. I've got blue and purple irises plus some irises from my Granny's garden (don't know what color they are), tulips, daffodils, gladiolas, and rain lilies. I'll be getting more bulbs when they go on sale in a few weeks.
I plan to build a 16x3 bed and fill it with really good dirt then mulch the bed in. Some of the plants I mentioned have already bloomed- the flowers look lovely but they can't stand up on their own. Can anyone recommend a good (preferably organic) fertilizer or amendment that would help the stems stay strong? Also, some bulbs say to plant deeper than others, so can other bulbs be planted on top of those? I'd love to fill the bed with all sorts of flowers for her but there will be some trial and error since I don't have much experience with bulbs. Vegetable and seed flower gardens are what I have the most experience with.

Thanks for any help,
Abby

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gardengal48

Not all bulbs mix well together. Many early spring blooming bulbs (daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, etc.) go through a period of summer dormancy when excessive moisture and fertilizer is not appreciated. Unfortunately, this coincides to exactly when summer blooming bulbs (iris, dahlias, gladioli, etc.) want the most of these items. And many summer flowering bulbs are not winter hardy throughout most of the country and will need to be dug and stored for the winter. This would disturb their earlier blooming cousins if mixed together.

Strong stems with bulbs usually comes about from the correct planting depth and not from fertilization. Spring flowering bulbs can certainly be layered but, again I'd be reluctant to intermix the spring bulbs with the summer bulbs. One suggestion is to include some fast growing annuals or even perennials to fill in and provide color (and a disguise for ripening bulb foliage) for the spring bloomers and plant the summer bloomers separately.

A general application of a bulb fertilizer or an all-purpose fertilizer just as the foliage is showing (regardless of the bloomtime) will be helpful but not necessarily a requirement.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 5:06PM
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phantom_white(6)

I haven't planted everything in the ground yet. A lot of the bulbs are in large containers right now. The area I want to plant them in is riddled with wild onions and morning glories so I've got to clean it out first.
I was going to plant some perennials there too but didn't want something that would get huge/spread and block everything else out. Maybe a tall plant like Foxglove? Or Dianthus? I've got lots of annual and perennial seeds I can play with.
Also, the irises I got from my Granny's house are looking awful right now. I had to dig them up a few weeks ago to get them here, otherwise my granddad was going to chop them down. They're in a large container in full sun. I trimmed the leaves back to about 6-7 inches (because they were dying). The plants are a very sickly looking pale green color. They're currently in full sun but I'm going to move them to part shade. Any recommendations to get them going?

Thanks,
Abby

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 2:22PM
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gardengal48

Bearded irises are almost impossible to kill :-) I know of folks who have dug them and just left them lying on the top of the soil unplanted for months and they still survived! Having dug them up just a few weeks ago would be pretty much in the peak of their growing season so not surprising they are showing stress. Just replant them as soon as you can - they should be fine. Don't expect any significant flowering this season. The ideal time to move and replant is in mid to late summer when they go semi-dormant but doing it now shouldn't hurt other than to set them back for this season only.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 1:25PM
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phantom_white(6)

They've been in a large pot since I brought them home. I just kind of halfway buried them because I heard planting them too deep can smother them. All of the bulbs I have can't be planted anytime soon since the bed I have needs to be amended, tilled, weeded, and cleaned. They're all in big pots for now.
So I should find out when my bulbs will be flowering/going dormant and plant like types together? Is there a list somewhere of example plans and how to plant different bulbs?

Thanks for all the help!
Abby

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 12:44PM
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