Ask Elaine: End of Season Garden Activities

Dear Elaine,

I know that it is getting near the end of the garden season, but is there anything else to do.  I don’t want to overlook anything.

Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving.


Dear Kathleen,

Yes, we are wrapping things up at Laurelwood Arboretum. That includes pulling out the frosted annuals, moving our valuable tender tropicals into the greenhouse, cutting back some of the herbaceous perennials, last minute weeding, mulching empty beds and woody plants, cutting out dead branches on trees and shrubs, and painting the bridges and benches. We leave some of the perennials for winter interest and as food for some birds, but we do cut down the bearded iris and peony for health and beauty issues.

The other autumn garden activity that the staff and volunteers perform is spring-flowering bulb planting.  We plant daffodils by the thousands and alliums (ornamental onions) by the hundreds.  With 30 acres to landscape, we need many bulbs to make an impact. The daffodils and alliums add a shot of spring color and are deer resistant. I love the yellow and purple color combination! There are a few other deer-resistant spring-blooming bulbs: winter aconite, snowdrops, fritillaria and Siberian squill. These bulbs are spotted throughout Laurelwood.

This is a great time to buy and plant bulbs. They are available at reduced prices in many places (hurry!). For the best success, plant the bulbs in a site that receives five to six hours of direct sun a day. They like a soil pH of six to seven. You might consider a little phosphorous/bone meal at the bottom the planting hole to encourage root and bud development, but this element is not necessary. Plant the bulb at a depth two to three times the height of the bulb. This means that daffodils, for example should be planted six to eight inches deep and apart from each other. Planting depth is always measured from the bottom of the bulb.  The pointed end of the bulb is planted up; the root plate is downward. Water the bulbs after planting, or better yet, plant them before a projected rainfall. Cover with two inches of mulch.

To me, nothing gives greater satisfaction with so little effort as spring-blooming bulbs. Be sure to add them to your garden, perennial bed, groundcover area or shrub border. Happy Thanksgiving!

All the best,
Elaine Fogerty, Executive Director

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