In the garden this week

Last week we harvested he last of our grapes in the upper greenhouse. Now the front of the greenhouse needs a good end of season clean. We’ve cut back the asparagus in the perennial vegie bed. The foliage which has an attractive feathery appearance we’re drying to use in the wreath making workshop. Meanwhile the crowns of the asparagus need to be gently covered with a mulch of sieved compost to protect them from the winters’ cold.

This is the time of year for planting bulbs. If you ever stopped to wonder what bulbs are you might be surprised by how this term which covers plants that have a swollen storage organ ‘the bulb’ describes quite a range of different structures. The ‘bulb’ is where the plant stores its energy reserves during the time when it is dormant and hidden below ground. ‘Bulbs’ include what botanist’s call true bulbs, corms, and tubers.

True bulbs are modified stems where the scale leaves are modified food storage organs and there are two kinds of bulbs, tunicate bulbs and scaly bulbs.

Tunicate bulbs such as alliums /onions, narcissi / daffodils and tulips have broad fleshy scale leaves that form almost concentric rings around the growing point. Just cut horizontally through an onion to see this pattern.  The ‘tunic’ is the papery outer skin of the bulb which everyone is familiar with from peeling an onion. The roots develop from the outside edge of the basal plate.

Scaly bulbs such as fritillaries that have scalier fleshier leaves that are narrower and don’t surround the growing point. These kinds of bulbs are more susceptible to drying out because they don’t have a ‘tunic’ the dry membrane on the outside to protect them from dehydration.

There are tubers which are not true bulbs but enlarged stems. Tubers don’t have a basal plate or a papery tunic. They have several growing points called eyes and most often root from the bottom. Buds form along a tuber, and like a potato, Dahlia, day lily and oca, if you cut a piece with an eye it can grow from the eye. Tubers don’t multiply and this is how they differ from corms.

Corms are stem tissue modified to form a storage organ. If you cut across a corm you won’t find any rings. When corms multiply they do this by forming little corms around the basal plate. Cyclamen are an example of a corm. This week we have a number of bulbs to plant.

Iris reticulata ‘Pixie’ to add to the spring display in the front borders. These beds need to be weeded and the bulbs planted near the front of the borders. Cyclamen cilicium which are small low growing bulbs that will look really attractive when planted in our rockery. Fritillaria meleagris (snakeshead) which like a damp habitat so we will be planting them around our pond. Dwarf narcissi and Poet’s Narcissus which we’ll be planting in pots and brining on in the greenhouse for sale in spring. 

Don’t forget his sunday 11am-12.30pm our next botany workshop and from 12.00 you can join our Wreath making workshop. The inside story of how plant stems work. Book here for Botany and here for Xmas Wreaths