This time of the year, when most of your gardening activities probably involve the drudgery of raking leaves and clearing brush, give yourself a lift by doing something creative. Grab a shovel and start planting spring flower bulbs now…and load up your window boxes to decorate your home’s exterior for fall and winter.
I asked resident expert Maureen Peebles of Contain Yourself Gardening (973-769-8771) in Chatham for some tips for those of us who want gorgeous outdoor color and fragrance without too much effort.
Here are some of Maureen’s professional tips and tricks…
Plant Spring Bulbs in Fall:
- Put bulbs into the earth each autumn, before the ground freezes.
- Planting depth should be three times the depth of the bulb (not counting the roots).
- Choose deer-resistant varieties such as daffodils, hyacinths, crocus and allium. Tulips, i.e., “deer candy” are suitable only for protected areas or if treated with animal repellent. Don’t count on any flower to be 100-percent deer-proof, Maureen says.
- Some bulbs (like crocus) bloom in April, while others (like giant allium) burst forth in late June.
- Make your hard work pay off longer by checking the bloom time (listed on the package) of your bulb variety. Choose different types to extend the colorful display.
- Group bulbs for greater impact and also vary the color and type in each group. For example, plant purple, yellow and pink tulips together. Or group yellow, white, peach and frilly-edge daffs in one spot.
- For a WOW factor, dig one big hole rather than a long trench. You don’t want your daffodils to pop out of the ground lined up like a single row of soldiers. Better to dig 3-5 strategically located spots around your yard with 8, 10 or 15 bulbs in each hole.
- “Most gardeners are solitary creatures,” says Maureen. “But if you’re working with a partner, one person can press a shovel into the earth to create a gap in the soil as the other person places the bulb inside the gap. The soil can be easily pressed back into place with your foot.”
- Since flower bulbs need to be put in the ground before the earth freezes, do the work now (before Thanksgiving!) and you will be rewarded next spring when your yard is festooned with blossoms.
- Another option, besides bulbs, is tubers. But tubers are not for the faint of heart because, unlike bulbs, they must be dug up in fall, stored in a cool, dry place and re-planted each spring. But there’s a payoff for this hard work, because the result can be spectacular in a show of bright purple, yellow, orange, red and white. “Some varieties of dahlias actually bloom with faces as big as dinner plates,” Maureen says.
Create Stunning Fall/Winter Window Boxes:
- Fill window boxes and planters with abundance to welcome Thanksgiving and holiday guests and add interest to your home’s exterior all winter long.
- Mums are a perfect choice for fall boxes and pots, but there are many other tricks to make a strong horticultural statement outdoors.
- Plant miniature spruces (up to 18 inches high) in each window box or large planter. Water them (especially if they reside under a porch or overhang) regularly until they go dormant. Usually, petite evergreens will go dormant after three consecutive nights of frost. Once this happens, you no longer need to water them and (as if by magic!) they will maintain their green color throughout winter months.
- Ornamental, inedible cabbages also add color and interest to window boxes and outdoor planters. But they don’t like frost, so these are typically good choices for Thanksgiving time, rather than frigid winter months.
- Add acorns (fall) and pine cones (winter) to your window boxes and pots to make them even more cheery and festive. Have fun and remember, you can repurpose any type of box or planter to display your favorite fall and winter flowers, fruits, vegetables, branches and more.