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Dear Problem Lady

I want to plant spring-blooming bulbs this fall so that there is something blooming from beginning to end of spring. What sequence would you suggest?
Our spring here in DC is over by the end of April – or earlier. Weather can get so hot by then that any so-called “late-blooming” tulip is going to fry before the flower even opens. By May 1 flowering shrubs are more reliable than bulbs – unless your garden is shady. Concentrate, therefore, on early-blooming bulbs — snowdrops, scilla, crocuses, narcissus, grape hyacinth and hyacinth, very early-blooming tulips, alliums and Summer Snowflake (Leucojums). 

I forget where all my spring-blooming bulbs were planted. I know I need more, but don’t know where to begin.
Didn’t you take any photographs? Use a narrow-spiked bulb planter to insert tiny bulbs, and gently probe with a thin-tined garden fork to move the soil around in places where you suspect there might be bulbs. Next spring take photos or make a map.

I planted three Alliums several years ago. One split into two rather weak shoots, while two are hardy and strong. They looked lonely, however – lined up in a row. Any hints for a better use of this gorgeous very tall round flower?
Alliums look good in a bigger clump – a minimum of seven, let’s say – more is better. Another plan might be a single allium amongst a grouping of fuller late spring perennials, which can hide the bareness of the bare allium stalks and provide interesting color combinations. Try Allium along with Lady’s Mantle (Alchemille Mollis, with its chartreuse flowers) or Salvia, Camassia, Penstemon, Cranes bill Geraniums, Euphorbia, even Columbine (Aquilegia).

I would like some winter-blooming camellias, but am unsure whether I have the conditions they prefer. Can you enlighten?
Camellias prefer dappled shade. A bed that faces north is good. Most important is protection from biting, drying cold wind. Also important is protection from early morning or late afternoon strong sun. They like loose, well-drained, acid soil that you can create by using humus or compost mixed with composted manure and some bone meal. Winter-blooming camellias can go from store pots right into the ground now. Camellias have shallow roots. Use no more than two inches of light mulch – made of dried leaves, or pine needles. Do not over-water. They will bloom from now through Christmas and beyond.


The Capitol Hill Garden Club convenes public meetings again on September 11 at 6:45 pm at the NE Public Library, corner of Maryland Ave. & 7th St. NE. Meetings are free and open to all. Membership details: capitolhillgardenclub.org.

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