Salisbury, MD. Last weekend's warm weather brought the crocuses into bloom in lawns throughout most of Delmarva. Flower heads and foliage of early daffodils have pushed up through the fallen leaves, promising to burst into bloom with the next warm spell. The tulips aren't far behind. Now is the time to walk through your yarden (yard + garden = yarden) and take an assessment of what's blooming and what's not. Ask yourself these few simple questions:
1) Where are the spring bulbs coming up?
2) Do I want them there and are the colors still complimentary to the overall yard?
3) Where are there bare spots that could use a burst of color?
4) Do I have a variety of early -, mid- and late-season bloomers?
The Gardening Grannies recommend that you look out your favorite window, walk around your yarden and stand across the street to see how your "curb appeal" is doing. Assuming you like your neighbors, you will want to consider how prospective changes will affect their view as well. Take pictures of those areas you plan to address because, try as we might, the Gardening Grannies have long ago given up the concept that they will "remember". In the event you can't get pictures, the Grannies suggest you fall back on drawings and thorough note-taking. It will serve to remove a lot of uncertainty when the time comes to actually relocate something.
If bulbs are coming up where you don't want them or the colors no longer compliment your evolving yarden plan, the time to move them is after they have finished blooming. There are a couple schools of thought on this….and both of them are related to timing. The first theory is to wait until the blooms have faded or cut and then immediately start the moving process. A significant advantage to this method is that you can always find the bulbs because the green foliage is still in place. The Grannies like to dig a hole or area and scratch some bone meal into the soil at the bottom of the hole before nestling the bulbs into place in their new home. After filling the hole(s) and straightening the foliage, you can apply a bit more bone meal to the surface. This will find its way down to the bulb via spring rains and nourish the bulb over a longer period of time.
The second theory is to wait to dig the bulbs until the foliage has completely died down and the bulb has gone into dormancy. The bulbs can then be replanted or stored dormant until the fall. The advantage to this might be that you can free up a bit of time during spring cleanup and planting when we all are so busy. Replanting would then take place in the fall when you plant any new bulbs you might purchase or acquire from friends. Fall also might prove to be a time when you are less likely to be as busy. The Gardening Grannies agree that there are a couple of problems with this method, the most frustrating of which is the fact that the dead foliage can become separated from the bulbs and when you go to dig them you can't find all the bulbs or you dig too close and slice a bulb. Poor record keeping can be another downfall, resulting in mistakenly replanting the wrong bulb in the wrong place…..and who wants to do the job over again the following spring? Stored bulbs have to be kept in an area where they won't be found by ever-hungry rodents or small children looking for something different to play with, both of which can present identification issues come fall.
There is a third type of non-intentional transplanting that Granny Griffith refers to as the "Squirrel Relocation Program". Granny lives on a heavily wooded lot and has more than her fair share of furry-tailed rodents who spend their downtime digging up, dragging around and snacking on tulip bulbs. Because of the high mortality rate of tulip bulbs, she usually sticks with inexpensive offerings. One year Granny tried to outsmart the squirrels by planting a new lavender hybrid type tulip she had been lusting after in two large pots on her upper deck. All appeared normal over the winter and, in the spring, the bulbs came up in the pots and they looked beautiful. Granny went outside to admire them and happened to look down across the raised garden beds and there it was….one of her prized lavender hybrids had come up in the #7 raised veggie bed. OK! The squirrels had relocated only one bulb and Granny, even in one of her crankiest moments, had to admit that the trial was a success. Every bit as important as Granny winning out over the squirrels, is the simple fact that bulbs are amazingly hardy. We suspect that no matter which theory of transplanting you adhere to, the bulbs are probably going to do just fine.
Off your rockers and into your yardens…..Spring is just around the corner!
The Gardening Grannies are a group of avid and Master Gardeners who live, love and garden on the Delmarva Peninsula. You can write to them at email@example.com