As an empath and a former resident of Las Vegas, the past two weeks have been flooded with a full range of emotion. Much of it my own, as I swell into pure grief rolling down my face.
I think of friends who are mothers, brothers, cousins, peers who will never hold their kids again or even see them alive. Frozen at first news, then numb a few days, I somberly waft in graciousness and deliverance as I watch my son and fiancé work; full of life, learning, growing, reaping the harvest of seeds sown.
My child who celebrates his 19th birthday this week tactfully navigating his path to adulthood. He gives me a long embrace as close friends in the desert suffer the loss of their loved ones to bloodshed and madmen. The love of my life letting me be. Holding me closer. Kissing me longer. Awkwardly accepting that heaviness and sudden outbursts have nothing to do with him at all.
Natural disasters are wiping out entire countries while civil upheavals are destroying lives. Universal emotions beckon my attention as compassion, faith, and renewal chime in their song of recovery, remembering that our planet and humanity can shift and change and restore. The sun rises. The sun sets. Another day begins and ends. Another moment is enough. Garden therapy calls.
It is perfectly fitting that hundreds of fall bulbs arrived on the welcome mat last week — botanical iris, allium, fritillaria, daffodils, crocus and tulips, to name a few. This week, I’ll be knee-deep in perennial beds planting next spring’s blooms on the coattails of unrest. Specifically, venturing into planting more than 100 bulbs in four square feet.
With some bulbs, such as bearded iris, selling for upwards to $5 a piece and a few rare breeds I’ve found stretching to $10 a pop, planting a fall bulb garden is not always top priority on the garden pocketbook. However, a point to deliver with a big smile and tiddlywink of the eyelashes when discussing value dollar for dollar is that most fall bulbs are excellent cut flowers and many last a decade or more when properly tended to.
Don’t let the cost of bulbs deprive your yard from crocus bursting through the melting snow with tufts of muscari and beams of variegated tulips to follow. Now is the time to pick a spot, plan a plot and give homage to spring long before she comes.
Tips for planting fall bulbs
• More is better. Create a focal point for the spring thaw that highlights the entrance of your home or a place in the yard that is easily mulched in early spring without much more tending necessary for the season. Put your bursts of color in clumps and I promise they will steal the show from perimeters and perennial beds that cannot be primped until weather warms or spring showers dry up.
• Take your time, but make time. You can easily enjoy planting 100 bulbs or more in about 20 minutes using the lasagna method of bulb planting. In this method, choose bulbs carefully. Know your bloom time. Know your planting depths.
In the lasagna method of bulb planting, deep placement lovers such as tulip and large, cupped narcissus can be in the very same space as midseason tulips that only need to be planted 6 inches deep.
Tiny bulbs with a lot of show, such as crocus and grape hyacinth, are planted on the top layer just a few inches deep and are here and gone sometimes before the tulips even come up. For my 2-foot-square bed, I planted three types of daffodil, two types of hyacinth, eight types of tulips ranging from early season to late bloomers, along with botanical iris, muscari, crocus and giant snowflakes.
Lasagna bulb bed Instructions
Choose a square foot space and dig the entire space to deepest bulb planting (in the case of all in four square feet). To manage time, dig the entire space to 8 inches deep (or lowest depth of bulb to plant). In my case, narcissus that will be planted 4 to 6 inches apart. Along with those clusters of early daffodils, I will lay out a few summer blooming alium bulbs on this level, too.
Cover the deepest planted bulbs with an inch or two of well-worked, amended soil with plenty of organic matter. Press into place the bulbs that want to be planted 6 inches deep. Most tulips will be on this level, and some even prefer the 8- to 10-inch depth. It is worthwhile to choose tulips that do well in our planting zone and to assure the roots of their bulbs set in at the depth on the planting instructions.
Sailboat narcissus and Angelique tulips are two go-tos for zone 5A hardiness reliability. After covering the tulips with a couple more inches of soil, selections such as spring starflower (ipheon) are a good match for the 4-inch depth level. Drumstick alium (summer bloomers) can be intermingled on this layer, too. Add another couple inches of soil mix, then sprinkle your shallow bulbs evenly
A mix of crocus with 2 bloom times and 5 colors take up the most space, with some muscari and snowdrop added, too. Be sure to add another 2 inches of soil mix before mulching with a fall layer of leaves, chipped bark or straw to prevent heaving over the winter months.
Horticulturalism Rule No. 1
Don’t stress over which end is up. Healthy, new growth always will find its way to the light. Placing bulbs a certain way only comes into play if the bulb itself is stressing out for nutrients, air or water. If you work the ground 8 to 12 inches deep and amend beds with plenty of organic matter each season, it won’t matter whether you know which end is up.
Horticulturalism Rule No. 2
What you choose in this moment matters long after the moment passes.
The simple pleasure of aromatic, colorful blooms next season is only one measurable reward of choosing to plant bulbs today. As you sink your bulbs into the dirt, set an intention for more evidence to reveal itself as a direct result of your choice to embed an otherwise plain obscure, indiscriminate bulb into the soil now. Let your love for gardening be the ripple of love this world deserves to feel, to see, to embrace.
Groups are forming now for lasagna bulb planting sessions. Contact me via email to participate.