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Crowd Control
by Carla Allen
by Carla Allen

Greetings from Nova Scotia!

Carla Allen has been gardening for the past 25 years, co-owned a nursery in southwestern Nova Scotia for 16 years.

Carla has an extensive image library and nurtures a network of horticulture in the region. She was the first president of the Yarmouth Garden Club.

May 25, 2008

Spring, when it finally has truly arrived, makes me feel like a bystander at the Indy 500, my head whipping from side to side to keep up with the action. Everything is rushing to bloom - from pussywillows, followed by the bonny golden heads of coltsfoot, to daffys and tulips. Saturday, on the way to town I noticed the forsythia in bloom. I would have sworn there was no sign of cheerful yellow on their stems the day before. The warm Spring sunshine coaxes everything to open their petals wide.

I have a clump of purple crocus that has flashed its bloom and gone. This particular clump has been growing in the same spot for at least a decade and for the past couple of years I've been meaning to divide it. The problem is, after they've finished blooming, I tend to forget about them and good intentions fade along with the flowers. This year, I think I'll plant a small flag in the middle of this closely packed group, or maybe a whirligig. That's bound to catch my attention when I'm gardening in the area. Do you have a patch of daffodils or crocus like this?

These bulbs, along with grape hyacinths, snowdrops, wood hyacinths and several other hardy multipliers, become noticeably crowded after 6 or 7 years. If the bulging bulb population becomes too dense in one area, it will be at the expense of blooms. These plants just won't be receiving enough light, nutrition and moisture to produce flowers. My purple crocus actually seem to be erupting from the ground, the bulbs have multiplied so much. I should discover quite a treasure trove when I go to dig them up in a few weeks time.

I know a gardener who grows tulips descended from those grown on her property forty years ago. She's kept them returning and multiplying nicely by feeding them with 10-10-10 fertilizer and compost. They have spread tenfold from her original planting and she now digs some up from time to time to break apart and replant in other areas of the property. She never makes an effort to remember where, as she likes surprises!

If you do plan on digging up your bulbs and dividing them, wait until the leaves have died back and become yellowish. That way you've given them time to gather nutrients for next year's bloom. I'll be lifting my crocus around the end of May and replanting them on a naturalized slope between rhododendrons and azaleas. They'll be planted in groups of 9 or 10, placed in a shallow (2 inch) hole with a few tablespoons of bone meal and compost in each. In the years to come, they should multiply to cover this area with a carpet of royal purple briefly each spring.

If you are digging and replanting larger bulbs like daffodils and tulips, make sure you plant them deeper - at least 7 to 8 inches, for strong, long-lived blooms.

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