Autumn is the time Spring flowering bulbs start to arrive in store. Most spring flowering bulbs are dormant during summer and emerge after the cold winter. The variations in seasonal temperatures have become a require part of their growth cycle. They need the warmth of summer when dormant and they need 8-10 weeks of cold in winter to complete the development of their stems and flower buds inside the bulb.
A lack of winter cold is one of the main reasons for bulbs not flowering as well expected. It causes a lack of bud development and short stems, particularly in tulips and hyacinths. As an insurance policy against a mild winter you can chill your bulbs in the fridge in a paper bag for around 8 weeks before planting them out in late autumn. Try to keep them away from fruit and veges as the Ethylene gas produced by ripening fruit can be very damaging to tulips and hyacinths, causing bud loss.
When planting, always prepare the soil to at least 20-25cm deep as many bulbs establish long roots. Plant bulbs in well-drained positions, on raised beds if necessary, to give better drainage. In general bulbs should be planted to a depth about 2-3 times their height.
Bulbs don’t need fertiliser at planting time, all the goodness they need is already packed inside! Fertiliser on the surface with a specific bulb food as they emerge in spring and again after flowering to boost their growth and as the nutrients start to receed back into the bulb for next season.
If planting Tulips and Hyacinths in pots make sure you put them in a cool spot where the pot is not likely to be heated by the sun as they’re expecting consistent cool conditions in winter, not a yoyo of hot to cold through day to night.
Nothing beats a vase full of Spring Daffodils and Tulips. To harvest the flowers of bulbs, snip them with a sharp, clean tool during a cooler part of the day (evening is good; morning is best) and immediately set the stem ends into water a couple of inches deep. Trim the stems again, cutting on the bias to promote water intake, when transferring the flowers into a vase. To prolong the vase life, let the flowers rest in a cool, dark space for at least several hours before moving the arrangement to its intended spot. Change the water on alternating days to prolong the life of the arrangement. If a spring cutting garden isn’t yet offering floral companions for the bulb flowers, try adding material from other areas to the vase, such as twigs from shrubs and the unfurling or colorful foliage of perennials like hostas, ferns and heucheras.