Spring-flowering bulbs have given us their show, but the curtain is dropping on them, so to speak.
It is easy to get busy thinking ahead to summer gardening — and forget about those bulbs that have given us such pleasure. Although we'd like to believe flowers are interested only in making us happy to look at them, the truth is that they're interested only in reproducing themselves.
Daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, crocuses and other spring-bloomers exhaust their bulbs by blooming. They renew themselves by making and storing food, which they do by using their green leaves to gather energy from the sun, which will give them the strength to bloom again next spring.
So resist the temptation to "tidy up" the garden by cutting, braiding, bundling or in any way depriving the leaves of sun after they finish blooming. Leaves should be removed only when they are withered and brown and come away easily in your hand. This indicates that photosynthesis has stopped.
Declining foliage is not very attractive to look at, so a good option is to plant companion flowers whose foliage will hide the browning bulb leaves. California poppies and candytuft perform this job well. Self-seeding perennials make this an easy thing to do. Try other options, too, such as pansies or coreopsis, depending on where your bulbs are planted.
Another way to help your bulbs recover each spring is to remove the seed heads that form after blooming. If you leave the seed head on, the plant will expend a great deal of energy trying to ripen those seeds instead of storing energy in the bulb. You may also wish to feed your bulbs with a bulb booster, available at your local garden store, to give them additional help for next year's blooms.
If you'd like to plant more bulbs for next year, the time to do that is late in the fall, after the soil has cooled. October, November — even early December — are ideal times in the Rogue Valley. Although you will find bulbs for sale as early as August, store any purchases made that early in the refrigerator until planting time comes.
Late summer or early fall is a good time to dig and divide bulbs in areas that have become too matted with bulbs that have been busy multiplying. These, too, can be refrigerated for later planting.
Coming up: Chris Hubert, who taught a grape-pruning workshop in February, will hold another workshop to discuss summer care of grape vines. Summer management of grape vines includes early-season shoot thinning, controlling head suckering, training vine growth and controlling crop load. The class will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 18, in the vineyard at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, 569 Hanley Road, Central Point. Cost is $10. Call 541-776-7371 to sign up.
Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. Email her at email@example.com.