Early this year, I was able to salvage some tulip bulbs from a gift plant. I saved the bulbs in the freezer and am wondering when and where to plant them. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
GLORIA J. AGUILAR, NORTHRIDGE
If you have had your bulbs in the freezer for more than six weeks, you can remove them at any time and, immediately after they have thawed, plant them in the garden.
I prefer to put my bulbs into the refrigerator vegetable crisper for eight weeks prior to planting. Lots of people warn against keeping bulbs in the freezer, but some experienced bulb growers are not averse to freezing them.
Other bulbs that require refrigeration for at least six weeks, but preferably eight to 10 weeks prior to planting, include crocus and hyacinth. Daffodils and their cousins, narcissus and jonquil, do not require any preplanting refrigeration.
The downside of tulips, hyacinths and crocuses is that they only bloom during one or, at most, two successive late winters or early springs. Daffodils, narcissus and jonquil may come back in the garden for many, many, years.
Another highly recommended bulb is giant amaryllis (Hippeastrum), the one that sends up enormous trumpets, most famously in red-orange but also in salmon, pink or white and, often enough, in two colors. For sheer horticultural drama, no bulbs can match giant amaryllis, whose trumpets flare as wide as 8 inches across. A bonus is that amaryllis will spread from year to year in your garden beds.
Plant at a depth that is two to three times the height of the bulb, pointed side up. Plant small bulbs (crocus, anemone, freesia) 3 inches apart and large bulbs (tulip, hyacinth, daffodil, amaryllis) 5 inches apart.
It is not essential that fertilizer be placed where you plant your bulbs since healthy bulbs contain all the minerals they need to grow their first year in the garden. If you wish, you can work bone meal into the soil a few inches beneath the bottom of your planting holes.
Since bulbs look their best planted in mass — in groups of 30 to 50 or more — bulb enthusiasts typically dig out a large area in the garden to the appropriate planting depth, seat the bulbs next to each other, and then backfill the entire area. This way, you avoid the more laborious task of having to dig individual holes for each bulb.
Bulbs generally prefer morning sun and afternoon shade. Dappled sun under tall trees is also an excellent microclimate for bulb growth. The following bulbs are considered moderately shade tolerant: hyacinth, arum, ornamental allium/onion, fritillaria, erythronium, puschkinia and chinodoxa.
Pruning for fire safety
The recent windstorms and fires are incentives to prune your trees if you have not yet done so.
A properly pruned tree will be artistically laced out and never hacked. Its height and form should not be compromised.
In an area where fires are prone to burn, the lowest branches of trees should be 10 feet above the ground, and there should be at least 10 feet between the canopies or foliage domes of adjacent trees and shrubs. There should be no trees within 30 feet of any structure.
The list of hazardous trees and shrubs includes eucalyptus, pine, juniper, acacia and arborvitae. In truth, every tree and shrub is potential fuel for a hazardous fire if it is placed too close to a structure or other plants, or if is dried up or in need of pruning.
Tip of the week
Fire-safe plants include daylily, artemisia, western redbud (Cercis occidentalis), and bluebottom (Ceanothus thyrsifolia).
A lush, drought-tolerant ground cover such as wooly yarrow (Achillea tomentosa) or white yarrow (Achillea millefoilium) is an excellent choice for fire-safe landscaping, sometimes called firescaping. Succulents such as aloes and agaves also are recommended.
No plant can stand up against a roaring blaze, but some species will retard the advance of a brush fire more than others. For more “fire-retardant water-wise” choices, go to www.clwa.org, the Web site of the Castaic Lake Water Agency in the Santa Clarita Valley, and click the “water conservation” tab.