Flower bulbs are incredibly forgiving. This fact is driven home to us every year when we start planting fall bulbs in our New Jersey trial garden. We always intend to get this project underway sooner, but have accepted the fact that for us, planting rarely happens before Thanksgiving.
It’s not like we don’t have the bulbs. They arrived from Holland in early August and are waiting patiently in our temperature-controlled warehouse. We’re late for reasons you can probably relate to:
FALL IS BUSY
During the months of September, October and early November, everyone in our office is consumed with processing orders and managing inventory. You may be consumed with your own work commitments, school activities, sporting events or house projects. Planting bulbs just keeps sliding down the list.
THE GARDENS STILL LOOK GOOD
Our trial garden is filled with summer bulbs and hardy perennials that just don’t want to quit. Until we get a frost, there are dahlias and cannas, elephant ears, heuchera, clematis and daylilies. We also have shrubs with colorful fall foliage, ornamental grasses and lush ground covers. When the gardens look good and there are other things that need doing, it’s easy to leave well enough alone.
WE HAVEN’T DECIDED WHAT BULBS TO PUT WHERE
In our trial garden, we are fortunate to have plenty of room for planting bulbs. The hard part is choosing which bulbs to plant and how to combine them. We have our favorites, but also want to make room for new varieties and combinations (so we can make it easier for YOU to choose). Once the plan is finalized, the planting part goes quickly.
THERE ARE SOME BENEFITS TO PLANTING LATE
At home, I usually order fall bulbs at least three times between August and November. The first order is for special varieties that may sell out. By ordering early, I make sure the bulbs I want are reserved with my name on them until they’re shipped to me in late September.
The second order is placed in early October, once I am ready to start planting. The final order goes in at the end of the season. At this point, selection is limited, but prices are very low. I use these end-of-season “bonus” bulbs in the cutting garden, for naturalizing and in containers for indoor forcing.
If you garden in zones 6-8, there’s really no reason to plant fall bulbs much before Thanksgiving. All they need is a couple weeks to get their roots established before going to sleep for the winter.
If you live in a colder climate, waiting until November means you’ll need to bundle up and wear some insulated work gloves. But you can plant flower bulbs even when the top inch of soil is frozen. I know. I’ve done it!
So this year, consider giving the Black Friday shopping frenzy a miss. Instead, invest a few hours outdoors, planting bulbs. When spring rolls around and your yard is filled with colorful flowers, you (and everyone else) will be so glad you did! Our end-of season sale runs until early December or while supplies last!