Fall and spring both hang in the balance

10/27/2012 8:52 AM

10/27/2012 8:54 AM

The spooky scene in the garden comes the morning when we wake to find that tender new mum buds, white tomato flowers and succulent green leaves on the purple sweet-potato vine were snatched away during the night by the cold, leaving summer only a warm memory.

Then we can move on and give ourselves fully to falling into piles of leaves, making pumpkin bread and blowing into mugs of hot chocolate as we gaze out the frosty windows.

Well, actually, we don’t do enough of that, do we?

Instead – or, ideally in addition – we can mulch-mow leaves on the lawn, make a compost pile, buy last-minute trees and shrubs, plant bulbs for the earliest next opportunity for flowers and water all our plants so they are moist when the ground freezes. I have to grab a glass of water for myself anytime I think of plants going into the winter parched.

If you’ve been going through your gardening things and have come up with stuff you want to get rid of, Kelly Hayes has come to the rescue with a gardener’s exchange Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Fairview Christian Church, 15th and Fairview. Plants, garden tools, garden magazines – pretty much anything garden-related is allowed, except for hazardous materials such as pesticides, Kelly says. And you don’t have to bring anything to the exchange in order to “shop” – take what you want from the exchange. It’s all free.

I’ve waited until now to buy spring bulbs, and I’m being all sentimental about it – connecting the planting of tulips to Election Day, and picking out varieties whose names I like, such as El Nino. Then there’s Giant Orange Sunset, which I didn’t even know was a tulip until I got home, because the little plant tags were all gone from the cardboard bin at the nursery. It was alongside the alliums, so I figured it for an orange globe. Turns out Giant Orange Sunset is the world’s biggest tulip, at 9 to 10 inches. This should be fun.

If you’d like fewer surprises in your garden come next flowering, I’d follow this spring vision from Adrian Higgins of the Washington Post:

“The key is to be liberal with the number of tulips you plant but conservative with the number of varieties. I plant them in blocks or broad ribbons amid clumps of perennials, then just coming into life. The scale and framing of your garden will dictate the area covered, and thus the number of bulbs, but be generous. The pros put in 12 to 15 per square foot, so a planting of 15 feet by 2 feet could easily absorb more than 350 bulbs.”

Higgins asked Angela Jupe, a garden designer based in Shinrone, Ireland, about tulip combinations, and she advised that in a three-variety mix, 40 percent is of the darkest tulip, with the two other varieties making up 30 percent each. “She plays with the ratios, especially if one is white. Your eye is drawn to the lighter flowers, so reducing their number will keep the display in check,” Higgins writes.

A mix of pastels is “soft and safe and elegant,” Higgins says. But you can also play with a combination of reds for the opposite effect. He quotes Jacqueline van der Kloet, a Dutch designer known for her bulb garden designs, as saying, “I never use the same combinations twice, because there are so many to choose from.”

“It’s sort of like playing the lottery, except you win every time,” Higgins writes.


About Annie Calovich

Annie writes about home and garden, including her Bit of Earth column on Saturdays. She has been at The Eagle since 1985, working as a copy editor, a nation/world editor and a reporter. She’s a KU graduate who started out at The Coffeyville Journal.

Contact Annie at 316-268-6596 or acalovich@wichitaeagle.com

Follow Annie on Twitter: @AnnieCalovich

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