PLANT NOW - Daffodil will bloom months from now. (Contributed)

Halloween seems to be an appropriate time to bury early spring bulbs in shallow graves. The season begins about now, and continues until about the end of the year. Installation of new bulbs might initially be ungratifying. There is nothing to show after their interment. Their spectacular bloom during late winter or early spring should more than compensate.

Freesia, narcissus, crocus, hyacinth and tulip are the most popular of early spring bulbs. So are anemone, ranunculus and several iris, although they may also be summer bulbs. Not all of such bulbs are actually bulbs. Several are corms, rhizomes, tubers or tuberous roots. Like bulbs, these store resources through dormancy to grow and bloom in season.

Early spring bulbs, unlike summer bulbs, prefer to be in their garden prior to winter. They enjoy rain and winter chill. Those that originate from nurseries are prechilled so that they bloom well regardless. After their first season though, some might not perform as reliably. Some bulbs can be slightly less than satisfied with winter chill within such mild climates.

BLOOMING – Early spring bulbs appreciate winter chill. (Contributed)

However, a few types of early spring bulbs can naturalize. After their primary bloom, they produce new bulbs to replace the originals. Colonies of prolific bulbs eventually become crowded enough to inhibit bloom. Division of superfluous bulbs while dormant alleviates crowding. Also, it relinquishes a few bulbs for relocation. Freesia might be nicely prolific.

Early installation of early spring bulbs promotes early bloom. Obviously, later installation delays bloom. Therefore, installation in phases throughout the planting season prolongs bloom. For example, as one phase of daffodil finishes bloom, the subsequent phase can begin. This is effective only for their first season though. Bloom synchronizes afterwards.

Because winter weather is so mild locally, some early spring bulbs bloom a bit too early. Also, premature bloom may not be a serious problem. Nonetheless, later installation may be preferable for some bulbs. Heavy rain may thrash tulip or freesia. Like phasing, delaying bloom is only effective for the first season. Naturalized bulbs as they please.

Highlight: daffodil

They may seem to be unseasonable now. Their flowers will not bloom until early spring. It is getting to be about time to install their dormant bulbs, though. Daffodil and all related Narcissus enjoy chilling under damp soil through winter. In fact, established bulbs bloom better after unusually chilly winters. Plump bulbs of some types are conducive to forcing.

The names for daffodil and Narcissus seem to be interchangeable. Narcissus is actually the Latin name of daffodil. It mostly applies to those with smaller but more abundant and fragrant flowers. Most with bigger but fewer and scentless flowers are daffodil. Narcissus are mostly white, but may be yellow. Daffodil are mostly yellow, but may be white or pink.

Some of the fancy varieties of daffodil bloom with billowy double flowers with two colors. Simpler Narcissus are more likely to naturalize. Taller varieties of both can bloom nearly a foot-and-a-half high. Their narrow and bluish green leaves stay somewhat lower. Foliage deteriorates after bloom, but lingers to sustain new bulbs until summery warmth.

Tony Tomeo can be contacted at tonytomeo.com.

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