Gardening Matters

Let me confess that I am a sucker for those bags of bulbs and plants that they sell at Home Depot, Lowes, Costco and other big box stores. You know the ones….a beautiful picture of blooming plants on the bag and a great price…ninety daffodil bulbs for $19.95, three dinner-plate dahlias for $12.95, and sixty crocus bulbs for 12.99 and so on.

I just can’t help myself.

The bulbs are not necessarily primo, best-in-the-world quality, but they are pretty good and the price is very good. I’ve bought daffodils, tulips, crocuses, dahlias, crocosmia, day lilies and lord knows what else over the years. And I have genersally been well satisfied with my purchases.

So it went last fall, I bought 180 daffodil bulbs and 60 hyacinth bulbs at a great price. It was still too early to plant them so I put them in a shady spot in my garage to await the coming of cooler weather around Thanksgiving time. And then I promptly forgot about them. Completely forgot about them.

I found the bags when I was sorting out some of the accumulated junk in the garage in late February of this year. My first thought was that I had just thrown away about $50.00. My second thought was that, what the heck, lets plant them and see what comes up. My third thought was that I would not tell any of my gardening friends that I had been so foolish with my money and my bulbs.

The conventional gardening advice is that you plant your spring-blooming bulbs in November or, at the latest, in December. This will give them a couple of months to develop good roots to be able to access soil nutrients when it comes time for the big bloom display. You certainly don’t plant them in the dying days of February and expect to get any blooms at all, let alone honking big, bold blooms with plenty of fresh spring scent.

Well, guess what I got? The hyacinths bloomed about in late March, three-four weeks after planting. They were just wonderful. I picked a few and brought them indoor and let them fill the house with their sweet scent. What a buzz.

The daffodils are blooming now and will continue for a couple more weeks. They too are doing well and looking like they had been planted according to all the good gardening practices that us Master Gardeners are supposed to know — and to follow in our own gardens. You can’t tell that I messed up on the planting schedule.

So, if you find yourself in the same fix that I was in, go ahead and plant the bulbs or flowers or whatever and see what happens. You may be pleasantly surprised like I was.

On to a totally unrelated topic…let’s talk about impatiens. As many of you will know, impatiens have been under attack by a new strain of downy mildew. Many garden centers are refusing to carry impatiens this season and others will not offer any guarantees on the health of these plants. The downy mildew is very common in Europe and is a bit less so in the US. The problem is that it not only kills the impatiens, it may spread to other species of plants and do serious damage there. Even traditional impatiens started from seed on your window sill could fall to the downy mildew disease.

The good news is that there is a new hybrid called Sunpatiens that so far has proven to be immune to the downy mildew. Further it is not just a plant for shade as were the traditional impatiens. It grows both in full sun and partial shade and will tolerate our Georgia heat without excessive wilting. I am going to give these a try this year and see if they work in some of my hot, sunny spots. I’ll let you know the results later this year.

Jeff Coghill has been gardening in DeKalb County for more than 30 years. He can be reached at gardeningmatters@

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