Editor’s note: Get Growing, written by the La Plata County Extension Office’s Master Gardener Program, appears during the growing season. It features timely tips and suggestions for your garden and landscape.
By Melanie Palmer
Fall gardening chores are not complete without planting spring-blooming bulbs. I always look forward to adding to my bulb collection and trying new varieties.
According to Denver Botanic Garden experts, bulbs are underutilized in western gardens. This is puzzling, given that most bulbs are ideally suited to our climate with our cold winters and warm, dry summers. Easy to plant and grow, many types often naturalize, come back reliably for many years and represent a big payoff for a relatively small investment.
Bulbs have a long and fascinating place in history, art, literature and even a country’s economy. Daffodils, grown by Egyptians and Greeks and brought into English gardens by the 1200s, are deer proof, enduring and now unbelievably diverse.
Hyacinths, which came into Europe from Turkey in the mid-1500s, are very easy to force indoors after a period of chilling especially if you want some color and fragrance on your windowsill before the snow disappears.
Tulips have the bulb kingdom’s most fabled history. Brought to Europe from Turkey in the mid-1500s, they were sold for astronomical sums in the Dutch “Tulipmania” period in the 1630s. A highly coveted luxury item, prices for a single bulb soared to 10 times a craftsman’s annual salary and then rapidly collapsed, nearly bringing down the Dutch economy. Since tulip critter resistance is an issue, I plan to try forcing some species tulips indoors this year.
Closer to home, wild hyacinth (Camassia) and cluster lilies (Brodiaea) are native to the northwestern U.S. Along with Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides), lavender mountain lily (Ixiolirion) and summer snowflake (Leucojum) can fill in the time between the last daffodil and summer perennials quite beautifully.
These bulbs and many others will be a part of the new Literary Garden, one of five themed gardens planned for Durango Public Library grounds, soon to be called The Durango Botanic Gardens.
The Durango Botanical Society will be offering 50 varieties of bulbs, including many for indoor forcing, at its fifth annual Bulb Sale from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the library. At 9:30 a.m., Mike Smedley will offer his usual humorous take on bulb growing.
Melanie Palmer has been a Colorado master gardener since 2012. She lives in La Plata County.