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Ask the Gardener: Too late for tulips? Did the ice damage my tree?

Spring bulbs like tulips and daffodils need a certain amount of chilling over the winter to bloom well in spring. Often bulbs sold in the South are pre-chilled to ensure good blooming. If the bulbs were not pre-chilled and are planted now, they may have enough cold weather to flower well.
Spring bulbs like tulips and daffodils need a certain amount of chilling over the winter to bloom well in spring. Often bulbs sold in the South are pre-chilled to ensure good blooming. If the bulbs were not pre-chilled and are planted now, they may have enough cold weather to flower well. JC Raulston Arboretum

Q: The recent ice broke several limbs out of a tree in my yard. What should I do to keep my tree healthy?

Pete Radko

Raleigh

A: The best thing you can do is go in where the branches broke and make a clean cut with a pruning saw. This will help to ensure that the wound can heal over cleanly. Do not paint the wound with any type of material, but let the plant take care of it naturally.

Still OK for bulbs?

Q: I was given a bunch of daffodil and tulip bulbs in the fall. Are they still good?

Pat Morgan

Hillsborough

A: Spring bulbs, like tulips and daffodils, need a certain amount of chilling over the winter to bloom well in spring. Often, bulbs sold in the south are pre-chilled to ensure good blooming. If the bulbs were not pre-chilled and are planted now, they may have enough cold weather to flower well even if they were not pre-chilled. The daffodils will almost certainly be fine, and if they don’t bloom well this spring, they will come back next year.

The tulips are a bit more iffy. Often when they do not receive enough cold weather, the stalks will be reduced and the flower will sit right at ground level. Since most hybrid tulips don’t come back year after year too well in the south, they may not be worth the effort of planting this year. In future years, look for the species of tulips which perform better in the south. My favorite is the lady tulip, Tulipa clusiana.

Locate hard-to-find plants

Q: I am an avid gardener and am always interested in growing unusual things, but I can’t always find rare and different plants at garden centers. Where can I find really different plants?

Cynthia Stanley

Zebulon

A:You are in the right spot for finding more unusual and hard-to-find plants. Central North Carolina is home to some great nurseries. Plant Delights Nursery in Raleigh, Camellia Forest Nursery in Chapel Hill and Pine Knot Farms in Hillsborough all have open houses the last weekend of February and the first weekend in March. You can also order plants from them online.

Other sources of great plants through mail-order include Nurseries Caroliniana, Woodlanders, Cistus Design Nursery, Far Reaches Farm and Forest Farm. This only scratches the surface, though, as there are hundreds of great, small specialty nurseries. Check out the Garden Watchdog site (davesgarden.com/products/gwd) for rating of mail-order nurseries.

Another option is to become a member of the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh. The arboretum offers plants for sale on occasion, and also gives away more than 3,000 plants each October to members for free. That’s a hard-to-beat way to get some really interesting plants.

Plant Spotlight

Common name: Golden Lady Tulip

Botanical name: Tulipa clusiana var. chrysantha

Family: Lily (Liliaceae)

Category: Flowering bulb

Primary uses: Perennial borders, spring displays, cut flower gardens

Dimensions: 18 inches tall

Culture: Sun. Tulips prefer well-drained soils. Plant the bulbs in fall about 3 times deeper than the diameter of the bulb. Divide every 3 to 4 years to keep the plants vigorous. Cut back when the leaves have begun to turn yellow.

Bloom time: May

Color: Yellow-gold with red blush on the outside of the petals

General attributes: This is one of the best tulips for the South, where it comes back year after year and will naturalize to form lovely patches in the garden. The early spring stalks shoot up to bear slender tulip flowers which open from reddish buds to reveal the gold interior. This plant was among Thomas Jefferson’s favorites.

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