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Select bulbs for long bloom season

Nancy Brachey
Nancy Brachey writes about gardening for The Charlotte Observer's weekly Home & Garden section.

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  • Ask Nancy

    Q. My hydrangea has little brown spots on the leaves. What caused this?

    A. The spots are probably caused by a leaf fungus that developed under the right conditions of temperature and moisture this summer. The leaves will come off, so don’t worry too much about this. Rake them up and take off any leaves that don’t fall naturally.

Plenty of flower bulbs are in the stores now, ready to make you happy.

If digging in the soil makes you smile, happiness will arrive soon.

If it is just the results you care about, happiness will be here when the first crocus or snowdrop raises its gentle bloom some time on a gray winter day.

This is the reward of taking time this fall to select flower bulbs for the longest succession of bloom. And such a reward it is.

While others are in full gloom because they think spring is still eons away, you have the joy of seeing pretty yellow, blue, white or pink flowers in full bloom for many weeks.

It just isn’t the same if you make all your choices and sink all your money into a single type of flower such as the Ice Follies daffodil or Apricot Beauty, lovely as they are. Because some of your choices for stretching the season are quite small, you can work them into nooks and other odd spots that otherwise might remain blank.

To make it easy, think of the bulb season in three parts: early, mid-season and late. There is something great for each one. And by early, I mean really early: January and February. This is when flowers in bloom are so appreciated it is worth putting on a coat to visit them in the garden. The best choices are the snowdrops and bunch-flowering crocuses. These crocuses are small bulbs, each producing several blooms.

Choices for the midseason, which is March, include most of the daffodils, notably the much-loved yellow trumpets, the early tulips such as the short Emperors and most of the Dutch hyacinths, so loved for their magnificent scent.

Then comes high spring, typically beginning in late March or early April in the Piedmont, when the trees and shrubs bloom so beautifully. This can be viewed as the late season for spring bulbs, though most people probably think of it as prime time.

It is when you see magnificent displays such as tall red and yellow tulip combinations of Parade and Golden Parade. Some of the late daffodils such as Cheerfulness and Bridal Crown come along about the same time, followed by the elegant Dutch iris, so beautiful in tones of blue, violet, yellow and white.

These are just some of the choices you have as you contemplate selections in coming weeks. Just try not to put all your space, effort and money into one kind of bulb even if it is as gorgeous as the Carlton daffodil.
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