by Sara Henderson
The recent cool weather and September’s arrival remind us that fall is just around the corner. Historic Oakland Cemetery’s gardens will shift into a different mode, as the late-blooming perennials bring bright color and growth slows down.
Growth may slow down but this is the start of the busy planting season for gardeners. The red spider lilies (Lycoris radiata) are blooming now, and they are one of the earliest fall flowers.
These heirloom bulbs are always showstoppers; the flowers emerge before the leaves, which follow shortly after. The foliage will stay green throughout the winter, storing energy for next year’s show.
Many gardening books are written in northern climates where winters are much colder and the ground freezes. Contrary to what these books say, fall is the best time to move or plant most of the trees, shrubs and perennials that we love. Fall planting allows our plants to establish strong root systems in unfrozen soil. Spring-blooming bulbs also get planted in the fall, but we must wait until late fall for the ground to cool before planting them.
We may need to wait a while before planting our bulbs, but it’s not too soon to start planning for next spring. I have bulb catalogues out on my desk right now and I’m so tempted by all the wonderful things being offered. The better suppliers hold my bulbs in their climate-controlled storage facilities and ship them to us at the right time for planting, thus assuring that the bulbs are plump and healthy when they go in the ground. It costs a little more but it is well worth it!
One of my favorite bulb suppliers is Brent & Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester, Va. Their fall catalogue is packed with hundreds of options for spring-blooming bulbs, but they won’t offer the red spider lilies until their spring catalogue. They grow the bulbs in Virginia and harvest them after the foliage dies down in late spring. Therefore, the bulbs have stored energy all winter long and are much larger than what you get from many sources.
Brent & Becky’s Bulbs is a four- (going on five) generation family-run business that has supplied top-quality bulbs to gardeners throughout the U.S. for many years. I’ve ordered from them for over 25 years and have never been disappointed. They’ve supplied many of the bulbs you see flowering at Oakland and are very supportive of public gardens.
Thanks to Brent & Becky’s Bulb’s year-round program, we have received several large bulb donations in addition to those we purchase. With Bloomin’ Bucks, customers can choose from a list of non-profits and 25% of their total order will be donated to that group.
The money raised through Bloomin’ Bucks has helped us enhance Oakland’s gardens with more flowers each year, and we hope you will consider helping out if you are buying bulbs!
by Sara Henderson