"Cuttings" is your source for garden updates and horticultural tips from Reeves-Reed Arboretum's horticulture staff. Check back monthly to find out what's blooming at the Arboretum, get the inside scoop on upcoming events, and learn some timely tips you can put to use in your own garden.
September Garden Highlights: Spring-Flowering Bulbs!
Wisner House, Daffodils, & Lungwort (Photo by S. Edelson)
Here at Reeves-Reed, September is when we like to get our bulb order placed for fall delivery and planting. For this month's edition of "Cuttings," let's take a gander at some perennial favorites that aren't favored by those pesky nibblers on four legs. While daffodils are the obvious choice, there are so many other beautiful spring-flowering bulbs to expand your garden's palette, while being unsavory to a deer or groundhog's palate!
Alliums are a great perennial bulb mostly known for their bold architectural exclamation points. Coming in an array of shades of purple, white, pink, burgundy, and even yellow, and ranging in height from 8" to 48", let's take a look at just one of them:
Tumbleweed Onion (Allium schubertii):
Tumbleweed Onion in bloom by the Louise Muncie Roehm Greenhouse (Photo: J. Frascinella)
A fun, quirky fireworks-explosion of a plant, with an inflorescence reaching a diameter of 12 or more inches and only 12-24" high, this is one of the shortest flowering onions, but by far the largest! Each flowerhead contains as many as 50 small, rose-purple, star-like flowers which bloom at the ends of pedicels of varying lengths (fertile ones to 4" long and sterile ones to 8" long). The specific epithet honors Gotthilf Heinrich von Schubert (1780-1860), a German physician and plant collector. For extended fun, leave the dried seed heads in your garden.
They do well in most garden soils and established plants have excellent drought tolerance. Plant in full sun 4-6" deep and 12-18" apart.
Close-up of Tumbleweed Onion (Photo: J. Frascinella)
Crown Imperial (Fritillaria imperialis rubra maxima):
Crown Imperial (Photo by J. Frascinella)
Another unusual and architectural plant for the garden, these giant Fritillaries make a statement with their pineapple-like tops and bold colors of orange, yellow, and red. Circa 1590, these amazing plants carry up to ten downward facing flowers on 36" high stems. The name is derived from the Latin term for a dice-box (fritillus probably refers to the checkered pattern of the flowers of many species such as F. meleagris. Butterflies bearing the common name of Fritillary do so because of their checker-spotted wings).
These bulbous perennials need fertile, well-drained soil in full sun and don't like to be out of the ground long, so plant immediately upon receipt. Plant four times their own depth and 8-10" apart. The hollow-centered bulbs do best planted on their sides and surrounded with sharp sand. Blooms in late April/early May.
Crown Imperial by the Louise Muncie Roehm Greenhouse (Photo: J. Frascinella)
Spring Starflowers (Ipheion uniflorum):
Spring Starflower close up.
Squill and Glory-of-the-Snow are beautiful, but sometimes that cobalt blue isn't what is needed for a particular garden. Meet Spring Starflowers, a sock plant with sweet star-shaped flowers of a pale blue to white. Considered one of the easiest bulbs to grow, it also has the added benefit of being sweetly scented and multiple flowering-stems per bulb. Growing in sun or part shade, it naturalizes rapidly via bulb offsets and self-seeding and can tolerate clay soil. With its grass-like foliage and diminutive height, like crocus, it can be naturalized in lawns.
Spring Staflowers as sock plants for Narcissus.
Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis):
Winter Aconite on the Wildflower Trail in February (Photo by J. Frascinella)
Also called Winter Wolf's Bane, this low naturalizer is the first yellow of spring, blooming in March and April –blooming even before Crocus! With its bright sunny buttercup flowers, it's a balm to the eye at the end of winter. As with many spring ephemerals, it works great in deciduous woodlands where it enjoys the benefit of full-sun, a benefit that comes from blooming before the trees leaf out.
Plant Winter Aconite along border fronts, rock gardens, paths, or anywhere that it can be seen from a window, so they can be enjoyed from inside the warmth of your home.
Height: 3-4" Plant 4" deep and 4" apart. Soak tubers overnight before planting.
Winter Aconite on the Wildflower Trail in February. (Photo by S. Edelson)
Volunteer in Our Gardens:
Please come out and join us for a morning of fun outdoor work on the following Saturdays this month:
September 7: 9:00 am to 12:00 pm
September 14: 9:00 am to 12:00 pm
September 28: 9:00 am to 12:00 pm
Please note there is no volunteer session on September 21.
We welcome all volunteers ages 12 and up, and are happy to provide documentation for students seeking community service hours. We ask that all volunteers wear close-toed shoes and dress for the outdoors. Registration required.
To sign up, or to learn about other volunteer opportunities at the Arboretum, please e-mail Lisa Martin or contact her by phone at (908) 273-8787 ext. 2222.