A season of transition

By Roger Erpelding
Contributing Writer 

As we zoom toward the vernal equinox, the calendar beginning of spring, and warmer days, it is time to give up the gardening of winter. And I am just about on schedule.

Forced bulbs are still my primary source of gardening as of this date. I was so impressed with the white “aiolos” that I plan to keep them. Late last week I cut off the spent flower stalks with a sharp knife. My usual next step is to throw away or compost the bulbs. In this case, I placed them back out in the sun room. The foliage is still green and healthy, and is likely to remain so for several months. I plan for the foliage to die a natural death late this spring or early this summer in the sun room, keep the bulbs in their pot without water until September, then plant them in a favored place to see how they will perform outdoors next spring.

With the “aiolos” going the way of the sun room, it was time to place one of the pots of forced tulips on the kitchen counter near the west window. Both pots had sprouted nicely, so which was which? Remember that since I only forced two pots of tulips, I did not affix Braille labels to the pots. The “gudesnik” cultivar is a much taller tulip with longer flower stems and bigger flowers. The early double variety are short in stature, with short stems and rather small double flowers. The two pots were sprouted enough that some differences were evident by touch. Since the “gudesnik” were the taller cultivar, I looked for longer sprouting spikes in that pot. Sure enough, one pot sported taller spikes. So far, so good. But I also figured that since the early doubles had the “early” label, they would bloom first. Was there a hint of this”? In touching the spikes of the doubles, the sprouting stems felt pregnant; a very good sign. One of the leaf stalks was sprouted enough where it began to split. I reached in and cheated. Sure enough–a bud! No damage was done to mother or child, and the transfer was completed without incident.

As the week progresses, I have noticed several flower stalks emerging. What color are they? At this point, I don’t know and I haven’t asked. The sepals (the outer portion of the flower petals or leaves) have not yet opened. Sometimes they do not have the same flower color when they open. But this group is a mixture, so I am expecting various hues of yellow, pink, red, orange and white. Sometimes this variety is slightly fragrant as well. “murillo” and “Easter egg” are two of the cultivars I have forced in the past. They have both proven reliable.

The double pink blooms of “Hollyhock” hyacinths are just breaking bud. Although they will prove a little “skimpy” like the “General Kohler”, they are already very fragrant. Beth has described their color as “dark pink.”

The “General Kohler” hyacinths are fading, and by this weekend they will be history. So the “gudesnik” will come on board.  Almost immediately, I will place 3 or 4 stakes in the pot–minimum length 24-30 inches each. Their long leaves, long stems and wonderful wine glass shaped blooms will require lots of tying, and a real challenge. But they are well worth it. I will talk more about their flowering in a later post.

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