A Gardener’s Diary: Bulbs can be potted

Jocelyne Sewell plants large quantities of bulbs now for a colourful, scented showing in the spring

Every summer after the leaves are gone from the tulips, unless the area is well-defined, I usually end up slicing a few bulbs as I cannot remember exactly where they are buried. This year I made a special bed for them around an old dead apple tree. Last week I planted 184 tulips in that space. At each corner, I planted a large hyacinth bulb. These also had been uprooted at some point. Under the little fir tree (our living Christmas tree) I also put more hyacinth bulbs. Next spring I am hoping for a fantastic show of perfume and colours.

I will be trying something new also this year. As I have so many one and two gallon pots in the shed, I will be cutting the bottoms and sinking them in the ground. Then I will be planting more tulips in them, making sure the rim of the pot is a little bit above ground-level. These pots will stay in the ground until the clumps become too large and then I will be able to dig them up and redo the process. No more sliced bulbs.

My neighbour had some lilies that needed planting deeper. In the process, she sliced one. I took some of the scales and planted them in a pot and took it inside, covered loosely with plastic. As I was checking them the other day, I noticed that they have rooted. I took the following information from the Internet. There are many sites to choose from.

“Another method to do scaling is to push the scale into a tray of peat and grit or humus so that only a third is showing above the mixture. Water the tray and let it drain, then place it into a transparent bag or clear tray lid if you have them. Keep the scales at around 18C (65F) but not above 21C (70F). In a couple of weeks you should start to see some tiny bulblets developing. When they get large enough they should be potted up individually. It is a good idea to put the bulblets into a cold storage for a number of weeks depending on the division. This will break dormancy and cause leaves to sprout. Asiatics need about a minimum of six weeks while Oriental species and hybrids need 12-14 weeks.

“After they have been growing indoors either under lights or in a heated greenhouse for the winter, they can be planted out in the garden when the soil temperatures are favourable. They may take a season or more to get to blooming size depending on how well they are growing. Scaling is a good way to increase the number of a newly purchased bulb quickly. This not only gets you more for your money but also acts like an insurance in case something unexpected happens to your bulb, such as squirrels digging them up and feeding on them.”

This is the method I chose because of the slicing of the bulb. I will be watching for the bulblets closely, pot them up and they will go under the fluorescent lights after their cold storage.

Only a few trays left to put in the greenhouse and I should be ready for winter. This year, I laid newspaper on the floor and the sides below the plastic panels. This should cut the draft. The larger pots are around the outside and smaller ones in the centre. When it starts freezing hard, I will cover them with shredded leaves and hope for an early spring and a very mild winter.

For more information: 250-558-4556.

Jocelyne Sewell is an organic gardening enthusiast and member of the Okanagan Gardens & Roses Club. Her column appears every other Wednesday.