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Problem Solving with Bulbs

Whether it's a problem spot in your garden or your whole growing climate, there is a bulb solution for you. Take a look at these bulbs, corms and tubers that solve common garden woes.

Problem: Salty, Coastal Area

Agapanthus a.k.a Lily of the Nile can be counted on to produce some of the best blue flowers in the summer garden and perform exceptionally well in salty, coastal environments. These bold textured plants are striking in borders and containers and are excellent as cut flowers. Plant the bulbs in an area that is sunny or partly shady where the soil is well drained. Bury them about two inches deep and six inches apart. If you are in a region colder than zone eight, plant them in containers so they can be brought in for the winter. Although Agapanthus are drought tolerant, they flower better when the soil is kept moist during the summer months. Left undisturbed Agapanthus will form large, attention grabbing clumps.

Problem: Wet Area

With dark green, sword-like leaves, Louisiana iris has the distinction of having the greatest range of colors of any of the iris groups. While these iris will grow in any type soil they are especially suited for wet areas. Hardy in zones five – ten, the best location for your planting is in full sun with some afternoon shade. They need at least half a day of sun to bloom but the more sun they have, the more water they will need. During the growing season give the plants a deep soak about once a week. Mulching will help keep the ground moist and protect the roots from too much sun. Pine straw or cypress shavings both work well. Louisiana iris is a good naturalizer and can be divided to make new plants.

Problem: Eroding Slope

Daylilies and daffodils make excellent bedfellows that offer two seasons of color. Daffodils are perennial bulbs that will multiply every year, they stand up to cold and heat and are available as early, mid or late season bloomers for an extended spring flowering period. After the daffodils bloom the daylily's arching foliage will come up and cover the daffodil foliage, which needs to stay intact until it dies back. In summer daylilies produce trumpet shaped blooms. Like daffodils, varieties are available that bloom early, mid or late season and the color choices range from white to the darkest maroon. Planted together on a slope these congenial companions will help stabilize the soil and over time will naturalize to create a nice seasonal cover. Both daylilies and daffodils are available in dwarf varieties if shorter foliage is preferred.

Problem: Early spring frost/freeze area

Dutch crocus (Crocus vernus) produce flaring or cup shaped flowers that can be white, yellow, lavender or purple. The leaves are grass-like and sometimes with a silvery midrib. One of the most vigorous growers in the crocus family, they bloom in late winter or very early spring. They are attractive in rock gardens, around stepping stones and in woodland gardens. I mass plant them for the best effect and I love the early color when my garden still seems stuck in the doldrums of winter. A late frost won't hurt these flowers one bit. Set the corms two – three inches deep in light porous soil. Divide every three - four years to increase your planting. Where winters are warm, treat as an annual or short term perennial as they may not naturalize.

Problem: Shade

Sometimes fleeting in the garden, Fritillaria can have unusual blooming habits, but I think the drama of a large grouping is well worth this bulbs inconsistent nature. They are beautiful in spring with their bell-like, nodding flowers. In the fall, plant the bulbs in porous soil with ample humus about four inches deep. Plant enough of these bulbs to make a striking display. They may take a year or two after planting before they bloom and may rest for a year before blooming again so I really enjoy them as a special treat when they do finally put on their show in my garden.

Problem: Munching critters

Spring Star Flower (Ipheion) produces thick patches of grass-like foliage in autumn and winter and blooms in early spring with sweet smelling, star shaped flowers that are a pale violet blue. When crushed the foliage emits a garlic scent that keeps pests and wildlife away. Ipheion is excellent in bright shade and naturalizes quickly to the point that it can be a little bit of a thug. Growing between six to twelve inches tall, space these bulbs about three – six inches apart and about two – three inches deep. They prefer moist soil during spring but like to be fairly dry for their summer dormancy. After a few years, if blooms begin to decline, clumps need to be dug up, bulbs divided, and replanted. The cultivar ‘Rolf Fiedler' has bright, deep blue flowers.

Problem: Shady Groundcover

Crested Iris (Iris cristata) has narrow sword shaped leaves and pale blue flowers with gold crested falls. In ideal growing conditions they will spread quickly. These petite flowers are hardy in zones three - nice and thrive in organically rich, moist, well-drained soil. They naturally occur on rocky, wooded slopes in partial shade but they will tolerate full shade. Growing six - nine inches tall, they bloom in spring and when in flower a well developed bed can produce a spectacular drift of blue color. This is an excellent plant for those shady, hard to maintain areas of the garden.