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Daffodil and hyacinth bulbs planted in October by landscape designer Chris Bany will sprout color in early spring at The Stylist Hair Studio in Carlsbad. Photo by Jano Nightingale
Daffodil and hyacinth bulbs planted in October by landscape designer Chris Bany will sprout color in early spring at The Stylist Hair Studio in Carlsbad. Photo by Jano Nightingale
ColumnsJano's Garden

Jano’s Garden: Time to plant bulbs for beautiful spring colors

I have recently had the pleasure of working with a fellow gardener, Chris Bany, on a lovely garden bed in Downtown Carlsbad. Chris, who is a landscape designer, is preparing the beds for a fall planting of bulbs.

In designing a bed that will change over the next few months, he begins by assessing the existing perennial bed and cleaning up the area.

Bulbs are not fussy about soil, and will fit nicely in front of his perennial groupings, but should not be overwatered.

The bed Chris is working on has a backdrop of a lovely white picket fence in the front yard of The Stylist Hair Salon on State Street. The garden is presently filled with summer perennials.

Yellow acacia climbs the fence and bright white Shasta daisies and yellow coreopsis festoon the border.

The combination of daffodils and hyacinth he is placing at the front of the bed will provide springtime color in March.

“The bulbs have a sixth sense about when to bloom in the springtime. Seeing the bright green sprouts poke up through the soil lets us know that spring is right around the corner.” Chris’s gardens can be found on Instagram @carlsbadvillagegardens, or call (760) 421-9855 for design information.

The next step in planting the fall garden is to keep in mind the variety of heights that your bulbs will bring in the springtime.

Most amaryllis and daffodils will provide the tall backdrop, while tulips, grape hyacinths and crocuses will fill in the front rows.

Other varieties known as South African bulbs such as agapanthus, crocosmia, freesia, gladiolus and Fritillaria can be planted in December, but many of these need to be ordered from catalogs.

Try not to plant them in straight rows, like little soldiers, but alternate in “V” shapes, or use a rope to delineate an “S” shape.

Be forewarned, that before all this takes place there are a few bulbs that need “chill hours” to encourage growth, and will need at least three weeks in the refrigerator.

Hyacinth and tulip and all need at least three weeks in the refrigerator, whereas the many varieties of Daffodils can go directly in the ground.

Marc Smith, of Anderson’s LaCosta Nursery, gives his advice for home gardeners.

“We tell our customers that if they would like quick results from bulbs, to try paperwhite narcissus or all varieties of Amaryllis,” Smith said. “These are available now, and are pre-chilled so they will bloom in six short weeks. Both of these bulbs make fantastic holiday gifts and decorations, so start them now!”

Anderson’s LaCosta Nursery is located in Encinitas at 400 LaCosta Avenue and can be reached at (760) 753-3153.

Here is the technique used to force paperwhite narcissus into bloom for the holidays.

Paperwhite narcissus makes the perfect gift

Chose healthy, plump bulbs from a reputable source for this project. Smaller garden centers, such as Anderson’s LaCosta Nursery in Encinitas sell these bulbs individually, rather than in bags as do many of the larger box stores.

Since they sell for two dollars a bulb, and a grouping would cost less than ten dollars, this can be the perfect holiday gift to prepare now.

Forcing paperwhite bulbs for the holidays

1. Choose three to five bulbs that will fit into a deep decorative bowl. The bowl should not have a hole in the bottom and measure 6-9 inches in diameter and 3-4 inches high. Start this process six weeks before the holiday.

2. Fill the bowl with clean small pebbles to within two inches of the rim.

3. Gently push the bulbs into the pebbles so that they rest with one-half of the bulb exposed.

4. Add water so that it barely touches the bulbs.

5. Place in a cool, dark place such as a cool garage.

6. Keep the bulbs in the garage for at least one week, until sprouts appear.

7. Once sprouts appear, place in a room with partial sun.

8. As bulbs begin to grow, turn each day so as not to become leggy. Water only when the water has evaporated. Tree branches or chopsticks can be added to provide support.

9. If you have planned correctly, your white flowers will open just in time for Christmas or Hanukkah!

We hope you enjoy our suggestions, and please contact me regarding specific questions or sources.

Many of the exotic South African bulbs can be ordered from Netherland Bulb Company ( or Dutch Gardens (, and try your local nurseries for bulbs available in November.

Jano Nightingale is a horticulturist and garden specialist. She teaches at the Carlsbad Senior Center and is available for adult and children’s classes. Contact her at [email protected].