November 8, 2010


I'm branching into an area of gardening that I've never tried before: flowering bulbs. In the San Antonio, growing bulbs is and intermediate gardening skill. Here, the classic spring bulbs (tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinth) don't get enough chilling time to perennialize so if you want swaths of flowers year after year, you have to dig and refrigerate the bulbs (too much work) or buy varieties that don't need eight to sixteen weeks of cold.

Naturalizing Narcissus
There aren't many nurseries in town (even independent ones) that sell naturalizing bulbs. Shades of Green does, however, and that's where I picked up some huge narcissi -- sugar cups and avalanche. One bad thing about bulbs is that you need to plant at least twelve in a clump to make an impact, and at $2.25 a bulb, the cost adds up fast. But if they multiply each year, it will be a good investment.

Grape Hyacinth
Travis bought me these little grape hyacinths from a big box store as a thank you gift. (You know you're a garden nut when your husband buys you bulbs instead of flowers.) Muscari neglectum perennialize easily here, but I think these are muscari armeniacum so I'm probably just whetting my appetite for a big purchase of neglectums next year (neglect 'em, what a descriptive name). I planted the grape hyacinths along with the big narcissus near the driveway where they will be noticed but aren't so close to the sidewalk that neighbors will be tempted to help themselves to a bouquet.

Hyacinth bulbs
The grape hyacinths came in a bag with some regular hyacinths that I'm certain won't naturalize here, but that's ok. I planted them in my backyard border garden where they will look exotic while I'm waiting for my other plants to fill in.

Another challenging thing about spring bulbs is that you need to buy them in late September when stores start stocking them, but you have to wait until almost November to plant them. (Very hard for an anxious gardener to do.) If you plant them too early, the bulbs misread our warm weather and think it's spring and time to grow (similar to the effect you create when you force bulbs indoors). If you wait to buy them, only the small ones will be left (if there are any at all), and small bulbs mean small flowers.

I waited until mid-October to look for bulbs at Rainbow Gardens and there were only six left. This was one of the best narcissi specimens they had. (The close crop makes it look much bigger than it is). Bummer. Of course I bought all six bulbs because I was afraid Shades of Green would be out too. Kudos to them for keeping a good stock.

This is a ranunculus tuber. It's an annual flower in San Antonio. Travis' special request was for 24 of these -- 12 white and 12 red. I planted them in the backyard between the foundation shrubs. It would be a treat if the ranunculus bloom during Valentine's season.

Hyacinth bulb prep
To get the bulbs off to the best start, I soaked them for a few minutes in a mix of seaweed and liquid fertilizer and then rolled them in dry organic fertilizer. Central Texas Gardener recommended a similar technique in this week's segment about bulbs. (Skip ahead 20 minutes in the episode. If you're interested in bulbs for South Texas, it's a very informative segment. This list of bulbs for San Antonio is also helpful.)

Hyacinth bulbs in Rose Glow
If everything goes as planned, I'll have beautiful flowers to show you in February and March.

In other news, this weekend we planted several veggies and herbs. We're a little late, but maybe they will work out. We planted swiss chard, spinach, leaf lettuce, parsley, cilantro and onions. I also put out the Larkspur seeds that we collected last year.


  1. Wow, I guess this means I already bought you Valentines Day flowers!

  2. Awesome! One day maybe I will be brave enough to try bulbs. Can't wait to see how they look in the spring.

  3. MD, if you want to dabble in bulbs buy some at the after Christmas sales and force them indoors for Valentine's. That's what I did with some narcissi last year. After they bloomed and smelled amazing, I looked into transplanting them to the yard, but I learned, that they were the wrong kind of bulbs for our area. Since then, I've had the bulb itch, but I've had to be patient and wait for the fall planting time. Now, I have to be patient again until spring.

  4. Here's another resource for learning about South Texas bulbs. Click the player on the right to watch the video