I was asked by a client the other day if we could plant her annual flowers right over her tulips, with the intent to allow the bulbs to ‘multiply’. I had to pass on bad news. Bulbs and annuals don’t play nicey-nice together. At least not with the selection we have here in the Midwest…
Bulbs should be planted at the correct depth for the bulb. If a bulb is planted too deep, to make room for the annual above, it may not grow.
Tulip foliage must be allowed to die-back naturally and will make an annual display look a bit messy until the foliage has died back and been removed. If you must prune the leaves back, there’s very little chance you’ll see tulips next Spring.
Bulbs, tulips in particular, do not multiply*, rather they disintegrate over time in the ground unless removed after the foliage has died back naturally, are stored properly and replanted in the fall. (Side note: Tulips give 3 years of service, in my opinion.)
Annuals planted over bulbs will remove all the nutrients from the surrounding soil leaving the bulb starved.
Bulbs need dry conditions, if annuals are planted above bulbs they will rot from the added water annual flowers require.
*Daffodils do multiply, however all the rest of the conditions would not be good for daffodil bulbs either.
First, choose a clean vase or container for your arrangement. For hard-to-clean narrow-necked containers, simply add dried beans or coarse salt to the vase with water and swish. Here in limestone land (alkaline), I use some vinegar to rid the vases of white spots (calcium).
There are other options to using a vase, florist foam (called florist oasis). If the blooms are of a taller variety, a disk of chicken wire pushed into the neck will help hold them straight. Rocks, pebbles, or florist colored-jelly balls can help hold stems upright also.
The best time to harvest flowers from your garden is in the early morning when moisture is at it’s highest. When purchasing flowers from the store, never place them in a rear-window of a car, a windy location, or where the sun hits them. Wrapping them in damp newspaper or paper towel will help them stay hydrated.
Aside from trimming off all leaves that could potentially be in the vase water, it is always good practice to trim at least an inch off the stem before arranging. In addition to these two practices, here are some special treatments for some floral arrangement favorites:
Clemantis = Pour boiling water over the stems , then place them in cold water. Another choice would be to dip them in champagne for a few hours before arranging in vase. Drink leftover champagne…
Daffodils = Cut them in bud or barely open. Fill the hollow stems with water and plug with a small amount of cotton. This works for all hollow stemmed flowers. (delphinium, amaryllis). Don’t put other flowers with them, they give off chemicals harmful to other flowers.
Dahlias = Never cut in tight bud, as they will not open.
Poppies = Harvest while still in bud. Sear the base with a lighter or by dipping in boiling water.
Gladioli = Cut when lowest floret is opening, and remove a few of the top buds.
Hellebores & Lilacs = Smash or split the stems before arranging in vase. This technique works for all woody type flowers.
Lilies = Harvest while still in bud. As flowers open, trim off anthers to prevent the pollen from staining anything nearby.
Marigolds = When re-cutting stem, trim exactly at a node (where the leaf meets the stem). Condition the flowers before adding them to the main arrangement by setting them in a vase for an hour with a tablespoon each of sugar and bleach.
Pansies = Submerge flowers one to two hours in tepid water to revive. They also fair better when a few leaves are left on.
Peonies = Cut them when the buds are half open and coloring. Slit the stems one to two inches to aid with water uptake.
Tulips = Add a few drops of vodka to keep them from drooping.
Clearly, arranging flowers could lead to getting tipsy 😉 Be safe out there!!
No. However I’m optimistic that Woodstock Willie (my local groundhog) got it right, and I’m looking forward to an early spring!
In the meantime, it’s time to start thinking about your outdoor spring container displays. “How early can I plant?” will surely be your next question. Depending on your ‘love and devotion’ level, is how early you can plant. Factors:
Availability of plant material? Hard to plant what you can’t get.
Is your irrigation turned on? If not, you’ll need to water regularly.
A well-watered pot holds heat – water right before a freeze.
Fabric (NOT plastic) to cover in case of frost. Be sure to remove the next day.
Be sure your container / pot is very clean to start the season. A good, stiff brush dipped in a 10% bleach solution will do the trick. This will kill off any of the nasties waiting to infect your flowers. This cleaning should take you through the season also. No need to disinfect after each season change. (Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter)
Spring flowers such as; Petunias, tulips, hyacinths, primrose, cyclamen, hydrangea, muscari, snap dragons, ranunculus, helleborus, viola, ivy and diacia are just a few cool weather choices.
Give your display a bit of height with pussy willow or forsythia branches. If cut at the right time (pretty much right before placing in display) they will also bloom, adding to the WOW factor.
These flowers will last until the weather turns hot & then it’s time to switch over to your summer display.
I’ll be taking requests from now until April 15th. After that date, most things are so picked over, it’s hard to be creative. You’re also almost into summer pots by then….