Friday, March 18, 2011

fall planted bulbs are abloom!

I don’t need a calendar to tell me it is spring. With temperatures in the 70's, there are new blooms to enjoy every day. Among my favorite flowers right now are crocus, grape hyacinths, daffodils, and my favorite deciduous magnolia, the Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana).

Perennial Crocus grow from corms (like a small bulb) planted in the fall. Their grass-like foliage and petite flowers won’t grow taller than 5”, so use them in the front of a planting bed. The white and purple varieties nicely offset the electric orange central stigmas. The spice saffron is obtained from the fall-blooming cousin of this plant (Crocus sativa).

Grape Hyacinths (Muscari) received their name from the spikes of blue flowers that resemble a bunch of grapes. This perennial, grown from a bulb planted in the fall, is even more petite than the Crocus. It’s perfect companion is a yellow daffodil, King Alfred for example, planted in alternating clumps/drifts.

Despite it’s observed commonness, the Saucer Magnolia is truly a thing to marvel. I first noticed this tree while going to school in Athens, Georgia. One specimen in particular (pictured in Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs) located out front of the AGD house on fraternity/sorority row is particularly memorable.

Its canopy of tulip-like pinkish-purple flowers is “one of spring’s greatest spectacles” according to Dr. Dirr, and I’m inclined to agree. This deciduous magnolia is a real show-stopper, with an attractive multi-trunked habit. But, since it’s just a one season wonder, I would plant this only as a specimen or focal point of a spring garden and not in a group.

This weekend marks seed planting time for my lettuce, carrots, and Swiss Chard! Another landscape project I hope to start is installing a stone border that wraps around all the planting beds against the house. Aside from aesthetic benefits, the border should also help slow the spread of Bermuda grass into the planting beds.

And speaking of grasses, if you haven't already cut back landscape grasses such as River Oats (Chasmanthium), Sioux Blue Indian Grass (Sorghastrum), Sweet Flag (Acorus) et cetera, do it now, before the new shoots emerge!

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