Fall is often the best time for planting many hardy plants, including most bulbs, and this includes dividing and replanting. Lately we’ve been busy planting spring and summer flowering bulbs, daffodils, squill, snowdrops, grape hyacinth, fritillaria, flowering onions, lilies, tulips, crocus, camassia, and the like. In my opinion, the biggest mistake one can make when planting bulbs is pussy-footing around and dabbling with them. Ten daffodils won’t make much of a statement (unless they’re in a pot) and in March and April, when winter blight has us thinking about a little stroll on the third rail, what we need is a big, splashy, exuberant visual statement. When you read garden books and they advise planting bulbs in drifts, they mean 150 or more daffodils in a 4′ x 10′ space, or 300 squill in a similarly sized area. I have no idea what a prescription of Prozac costs or how many dosages are included in the vial but I do know that 300 squill (scilla) bulbs cost about $80. and when in flower, create an ethereal, inspiring, vibrant, blue carpet that is indescribably stimulating (thus, all the previous adjectives) with almost no side effects, if you plan the plantings right. (Yes, you’ll want something to follow behind the squill to create another visual event. That’s easily done and likely the subject for a future post). Meanwhile, back at the ranch, for those of us sado-masochistic gardeners who treat dahlias and gladiolas and cannas as if they were members of the family, no matter how many of them there are or how unexceptional that may have turned out to be, we dig them up, now, and store them in a frost free place, nestled in sawdust or peat moss or some other neutral and dryish and softish packing material (not marshmallows or Lucky Charms) to spend the winter, albeit, in the basement. There’s still time to order bulbs and get them in the ground but don’t dawdle. Do it now, quick as a bunny, if you want the rewards that spring will give you.
Right now we’re planting the ‘dessert’ garden. Yes, we’re recommitting the Liberty Garden from an additional kitchen / cutting garden to one dedicated to fruits and berries. This garden, enclosed by espaliered apples and a pear fan, will be dedicated to strawberries, currants (red and black), blueberries, grapes, raspberries, blackberries and gooseberries (there you see Andrew’s British heritage coming through). Yes, there is the asparagus patch, a recent perennial installation that we coddle and therefore will leave be, but the rest, the annuals; the zinnias, cosmos, calendulas, sunflowers, larkspur, Bells of Ireland, cutting marigolds, morning glories, dahlias, gladiolas, artichokes, cardoons, leeks, florence fennel, kale…, all will be deported and we’ll have to find a new home for them.
The “dessert” garden isn’t happening in a vacuum. We are trialing a number of plants for the USDA. and we’re interested in finding out if these are suitable candidates for broader, commercial cultivation in the State of Connecticut than they presently are. With cuttings provided by the USDA, we have rooted and nurtured 15 currant bushes, all of which are varieties that date as far back as 1850, one gooseberry (most of the gooseberry cuttings failed) and 56 willows ( of which, the latter address an entirely different environmental and artistic objective and a subject on which I’ve previously posted).
Meanwhile, Andrew Pighills, horticulturist , has struck roughly 15 cuttings of ‘vitis vinifera’, grapes from stock provided by the Killingworth Lion’s Club,presumably ‘Marechal”(as I remember). We shall see.