In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, spring flowers are probably the last thing on your mind. October & November have been dominated by clearing out fallen trees and dead leaves; not nurturing daffodils and tulips. Yet now –just before winter’s first frost— is exactly the moment to begin planting spring bulbs inside tree guards in New York City and beyond. It’s also nice to think of sunnier days to come.
This is the fun part. Bulbs planted in the fall will be a welcome sign of spring in late March or early April. Spring flowering bulbs are the relief we need from winter doldrums. Remember the uplifting impact spotting tulips can have on you?
Choose your spring flowering bulbs carefully and you can enjoy spring flowers for five months straight from February all the way to June. Enclose your bulbs with metal tree guards to protect them all year round. Here’s how to get started:
What Bulbs Should I Buy?
- Tulip bulbs can be planted quite late, even during a December mild spell. It is worth experimenting with several varieties.
- Winter-hardy annual seeds that germinate become dormant and revive with the first spring sunrays to produce much earlier and stronger spring flowers than those that will be sown next spring.
- Smaller bulbs like muscari and crocus are a good choice inside your tree guard because they are planted in the top 2-3” of soil and do not disturb the tree roots. Here are some other options for tree-friendly spring bulbs.
How Do I Plant Them?
- Plant between four and six bulbs per square feet. The rule is actually four daffodils per square foot, but you can bend it a bit to keep your tree pits looking full.
- Keep in mind that bulbs should be planted one foot away from tree trunk.Stick to planting bulbs around trees with established root systems.
- Dig holes between 6” and 8” deep for larger bulbs, and 3” to 4” for smaller ones.
- Make sure the bulbs and surrounding trees are protected with tree box guards. Tree box guards add style and protection to your bulbs and trees. Are you worried that pets will ruin your hard work and beautiful plants? Add accessories such as Urine Shields or Pet Reminder Signs to insure your bulbs make it through the winter!
- As for laying out how your flowers will grow, be creative! Many people like to make patterns of flowers, such as muscari or hyacinths at the edges, short- or medium-length tulips/daffodils next and the taller tulips/daffodils in the rear.
- Purchasing bulbs annually gets a bit pricey. You can also add a splash of color to your tree pits by adding Curb Allure planters that fasten to the top of your metal tree guard. Remember: planters are a spring project, as their flowers are more susceptible to cold and frost.
- If you simply do not have time to plant bulbs, consider calling local professionals such as Urban Garden Center in Manhattan. While garden centers may not advertise such services, they are ready, willing and able to help out.
- Plant a variety of bulbs and keep a journal of your experiments as a reminder of successes. Each year, your tree pit fence garden is bound to get better and better.