Saturday, September 17, 2011

Stargazing and Crocus Carpets

I always have mixed feelings when my Stargazer lilies bloom. On one hand, they're Stargazers:

Enough said, right? And they smell as good as they look. And I have a whole posse of them:

My neighbors can smell them over the fence, which should give you some idea of how potent these suckers are. Some people find the smell unpleasantly overpowering. I am not one of those people.

So anyhoo, I'm always happy to see the Stargazers exploding onto the scene in my garden, but I'm always a little sad too, because they are one of the very last things to bloom and they double as harbingers of autumn. I love autumn, but it has this nasty habit of leaving the door open for winter, and I'm just not ready for that this year. Sigh.

But with fall comes new exciting garden projects, including one of my favorites, which is shopping for and planting bulbs. This year I came home from Costco with Narcissus 'Ice Follies,' Tulipa 'Oxford' and 'Oxford Elite,' and Crocus 'Remembrance' and 'Pickwick.' I'm particularly excited for the crocus, because I have decided that my sorry excuse for a lawn needs to look like this:

Photo courtesy of the US Botanical Garden in Washington, DC
Just what every Alaskan gardener needs and deserves to see in spring!! I've heard of two methods for planting crocus in turf:

1. Cut a patch of turf, peel it back, and scatter the bulbs (corms, really, since we're talking crocus.) Fit the patch of turf back into the hole, covering the bulbs.

2. Use a drill and a spade bit to drill individual holes into the lawn. Drop a corm in each hole and back fill with good soil or compost. (I heard this one from the head gardener over at the Alyeska Prince Hotel.)

You can see which method I've chosen. My lawn is really compacted, so I thought maybe this way I'd be aerating the soil too. We'll see what happens.

Supposedly you can mow your lawn as usual, and the crocus leaves blend right in after the flowers are done. I'll be posting flower carpet pictures next spring if everything goes according to plan!

Something to keep in mind when planting flowers in your lawn: you can't use chemical herbicides or heavily concentrated fertilizers if you want the bulbs to live. So organic fertilizers are the way to go, and you may have to get creative with weed control.

Have any of you ever done the flower carpet thing? What were your results? Any handy tips you want to share?

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