Thursday, October 25, 2018

Spring of 2019? It Starts Right Now

Opinion by John T. "Red" Ryan

ALTHOUGH WE ARE now in the midst of our Chicago autumn, with winter bearing down on us, the time is nigh to plan for our spring landscapes. If we want to have a bright and beautiful display of natural flowering surrounding our own private castles, it is incumbent on us to act N-O-W ! That time to which we refer is the planting time for the fall bulbs. 

THE INCREDIBLY LUSH and highly diverse display of color

that runs from the snows of February up to the arrival of the month of June is only made possible by the individual homeowner's doing some fall cultivation around the family digs. This bit of horticulture is quite simple and requires only the most rudimentary application of soil management. In short, one only need to dig some small holes of about 4 to 6 inches in depth. After mixing in a little bone meal as fertilizer, the home owner/gardener then deposits one bulb of  several species of flowering plants. Those varieties of blooming  things are: tulips, narcissus (daffodils), hyacinths and crocus.

EACH OF THESE plant varieties grow from an onion like root, called a bulb. The bulb is a very round, root base which stores nutrients for the plants' time in the sun, literally. Each of these plants has been cultivated for hundreds of years and consequently they have been selectively bred into many varieties, colors and sizes. With progressive blooming seasons, the planting of a combination of these flowering perennial plants will provide one's abode with a constant display of from the last days of winter to the arrival of June. Furthermore,being that these are winter-hardy perennial bulbs, you'll enjoy their spring displays for years to come, carefree with little or no maintenance.

IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER, the batting order in the lineup of floral display goes something like this:

• Crocus, February-March (often pushing through and
flowering in spite of the snow).

• Narcissus (aka Daffodils, Jonquils), March-April.

• Hyacinths April-May (highly perfumed, multi-flowered and richly diverse on color).

• Tulips, the true monarch of the spring garden. They will be in their full splendor from May to June; but there are many early flowering varieties. One needs planters' guide book or any nursery company's catalog to identify them.

THE SELECTION AND planting of this variety of bulbs will assure you of having a colorful display of nature's beauty right up to the summer gardening season; with its roses, petunias, marigolds, zinnias, etc. These, mostly annuals grown from seed, in turn will give way to the autumn's asters and chrysanthemums (just mums for short). 

DUE TO OUR lack of expertise in this subject (being only a former journeyman gardener), we know that we have omitted the names of some other fall planting bulbous flowers. The Muscari, which is commonly called the Grape Hyacinth, comes to mind. But have no fear, for one can readily get such pertinent information when and where he/she makes their fall planting purchases.

FORTUNATELY FOR US, we live in America, where gardening supply companies abound. One can go to any one of a number of home improvement stores or to a nursery outlet. This reminiscing reminds us of many (very many) years ago, while at home with the folks, we made a mail order purchase for "100 Tulip Bulbs" from an advertisement in the Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine. The firm offering  was called the Michigan Bulb Company; and damn! We just found out they're still in the mail order gardening business. The big difference between now and then (the '50s) is they now have the internet; as well as periodical advertising to hawk their wares!

SO NOW IS the time to get going. Don't put off planting for a
great and beautiful spring garden. You have up until about Thanksgiving to get those bulbs into Mother Earth; although some planting guides state that as long as the ground can be worked (hasn't frozen) the planting can take place. You may do your planting at this rather late date in the season; but it is good to get those little onion-like bulbs in the soil earlier. Doing so gives the ground around the newly planted, future dynamo of color an advantage in settling down more firmly in its new home. Another positive factor is that the bulb will start to send out roots; which of course are a necessity for a healthy specimen of flora.   

BUT IF YOU'RE like us, don't put it off. If you miss the window of opportunity, you'll have to wait yet another year ! A small investment of time this autumn will reap big time beauty for your yard come spring!

~ ~ ~

    John "Red" Ryan is a Garfield Ridge resident, retired Chicago Police officer and journeyman gardener.

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