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Gardening is waiting for the payoff

Jessica Walliser
Bulbs like tulips (above), daffodils, crocus, hyacinth, and hundreds of others, are an exercise in patience, but one that is so very worth it.

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Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, 8:57 p.m.
 

Sometimes, you have to wait for the payoff — especially when it comes to gardening. Instant gratification is nearly impossible where Mother Nature is concerned. It takes days for a freshly sown seed to germinate, months for a young tomato plant to bear its first fruit, and years for an acorn to grow into a beautiful oak tree. But, we gardeners know that good things come to those who wait, don't we?

One my favorite patiently awaited payoffs occurs at my house every spring. It's a beautiful show five or six months in the making. Every October, I labor in the garden, knowing that when winter's grip dissipates, I'll reap the gorgeous rewards of having planted hundreds of spring-blooming bulbs. Bulbs like daffodils, tulips, crocus, hyacinth, and hundreds of others, are an exercise in patience, but one that is so very worth it.

Spring-blooming bulbs are planted in the fall to allow them time to develop a full root system before they leaf out and flower, the following spring. Most are easy to grow, as long as you select varieties that are fully hardy in our area and plant them to the proper depth. A good rule-of-thumb for planting depth is to locate each bulb twice as deep as the bulb is tall. For daffodils, hyacinths and tulips, that means 6 to 8 inches, and for smaller bulbs, like Serbian squill, crocus, snowdrops, and anemones, 4 to 6 inches should suffice.

I greatly enjoy settling some of the more unusual spring-blooming bulbs into my back shade garden. They'll have access to sun here before the deciduous trees leaf out, and then their dying foliage will fade away among the emerging hosta, ferns and bleeding hearts. Each fall, I plant a handful of Puschkinia here and there, along with some wood hyacinth (Hyacinthoides) and glory of the snow (Chinodoxia).

I also find homes for spring bulbs in my front garden, but I have to be careful here, because this garden is in deer territory. Rather than turning to damage-prone tulips, I've planted my favorite deer-resistant daffodils, including “Fortissimo,” “Pistachio,” “February Gold” and my favorite miniature daffodil, “Minnow.”

Another group of stunningly beautiful, deer-resistant bulbs are the alliums. Many have found a home in my front garden. These bulbs are relatives of onions and have an unappealing taste to not only the deer, but also chipmunks, mice and voles. I just bought five more Allium “Christophii” bulbs last week; they'll join the few dozen drumstick alliums I already have planted there.

When I plant my bulbs each fall, I know how welcome they will be after a long, cold winter. To me, waiting patiently to see the eventual results of your hard work is what gardening is all about.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Grow Organic” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is www.jessicawalliser.com.

Send your gardening or landscaping questions to tribliving@tribweb.com or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

 

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