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2005 Tips Archive

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Fall, 2005

Q. Are tulips perennials or do I need to dig them up and replant every fall for blooms each spring?

A. The practice of many municipalities and botanical gardens of digging and discarding tulip bulbs annually after bloom created the impression that tulips will only bloom once. Indeed, since most tulip varieties are hybridized for cut flower usage, many of them are best considered "annuals".

However, many fine tulips can and do flower quite reliably for several years. One key factor is planting varieties with a good track record of "perennializing". At Westview Farms our fall offering of tulips is almost exclusively these perennial types. Darwin Hybrids are the most reliable, followed closely by the species or botanical tulips: the Greigiis and Kaufmanianas. We also seek out individual Fosterianas and Parrots that exhibit good re-bloom potential. We'd be glad to introduce you to our favorite perennial tulips.

Another "trick" to improve the chances that your tulips will re-bloom is to "plant deep". The general rule of thumb for planting bulbs is to plant "three times the height of the bulb - deep". In other words, if a bulb measures 2 inches in height, from the bottom of its flat, basal plate to the top of the pointed growth tip, you would dig a 6 inch deep hole to plant it in. In the case of tulips, when possible, plant them at least 4 times their height - deep. For a variety of reasons, this deeper planting provides added "insurance" that your tulips will produce blooms for 3 years or more. If it's not possible in a particular site to dig deep enough, consider mounding additional soil on top of the planting to achieve the desired soil depth.

If you plant the right tulip bulbs, deep enough, fertilize the planting every fall, deadhead the faded spring blooms and allow the foliage to mature completely before removing it, your tulip plantings should produce beautiful blooms for years to come.

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April, 2005

Way back in my days in the "corporate world", management seminars emphasized the positive attitude that "there are no problems, there are only opportunities". In the real world, we often hear the opinion voiced that gardening in the shade, especially in dry shade, presents what appear to be numerous "insurmountable opportunities". Well, Shade-o-phobics, take heart: Dry shade gardening is not an oxymoron. The following is just a partial list of the many fine perennial plants that thrive in, or adapt well to dry shade:

Alchemilla mollis (Lady's Mantle) a refined plant with chartreuse flowers and gray-green foliage

Anemone x hybrida (Hybrid Anemone) fall flower color for shade

Asarum spp. and cultivars (Wild Ginger) native or "imported", excellent ground cover

Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum' (Japanese Painted Fern) attractive tri-color foliage looks good all season

Bergenia cordifolia (Pigsqueak) one of Kay's favorites, dark green shiny leathery leaves and pink flowers early in spring

Brunnera macrophila (Perennial Forget-me-not) reliable and sturdy, tiny blue flowers in early summer

Campanula poscharskyana (Serbian bellflower) cascading foliage, sky blue flowers around the fourth of July and beyond

Chrysogonum virginianum (Green and Gold) low growing ground cover with cheerful yellow flowers appearing in early spring and blooming for an extraordinarily long time

Corydalis lutea (Yellow Bleeding Heart) one of Lee's favorites, bright yellow flowers for the shade!

Dicentra eximia (Fernleaf Bleeding Heart) one of the best, pink or white flowers all season with deadheading

Dicentra spectabilis (Old Fashioned Bleeding Heart) shrub-like size and presence, an old fashioned favorite for any new garden

Digitalis purpurea (Common Foxglove) biennial or perennial varieties, mainstay for formal or informal gardens in shade or sun

Dryopteris filix-mas (Male Fern) tough native fern, non-invasive

Epimedium x versicolor (Bishop's Hat) perhaps THE best non-invasive ground cover for shade

Galium odoratum (Sweet Woodruff) clouds of cheery white flowers in May on this 4 to 6 inch tall ground cover

Geranium macrorrhizum (Big Root Geranium) very adaptable and hardy perennial geranium with pink flowers and aromatic foliage

Helleborus spp. (Hellebore) THE PERENNIAL PLANT OF THE YEAR FOR 2005

Heuchera spp. and cultivars (Coral Bells) spectacular variety of foliage colors beneath airy sprays of tiny flowers

Hosta spp. and cultivars the standard for shade perennials, sizes from very large to very tiny, many leaf textures and color combinations with lily-like flowers from purple to white

Iris tectorum (Roof Iris) medium height oriental woodland iris available in a variety of flower colors

Lamium maculatum (Dead Nettle) terrible common name, wonderful ground cover with interesting foliage and long lasting flowering

Liriope spp. (Lilyturf) as a specimen plant or turf-lawn substitute

Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum' (Fragrant Solomon's seal) beautiful foliage, interesting flowers and berries, native hardiness

Primula spp. and cultivars (Primrose) a variety of vibrant colors, harbingers of spring

Smilacina racemosa (False Solomon's seal) under used native plant, extremely adaptable and hardy

As we said, this list represents only some of our favorite perennials for use in a dry shade situation. We hope that you will stop in at Westview Farms Perennials & Herbs so we can introduce you and share a few "tricks of the trade" to help you enjoy "Gardening on the Dark Side".

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