March arrives and this year we have had a good six weeks to appreciate the Snowdrop collection. Reliable, regular and then as the deciduous canopy above expands and emerges they disappear into the emerging herbaceous or grass undergrowth. A perfect end to a perfect floral carpet.
How to repay the bulbs for this annual treat?
Now is the time to lift established clumps, divide and through good planning extend the area of display that you will see next year. This is a job for a dry, sunny day. One of those days that you just want to get out into the garden after the short, cold winter days.
Use a border fork to lift the most congested clumps, carefully easing them from the ground, long wispy roots, bulb and foliage intact. Often they are bound up with the roots of surrounding trees and shrubs. Tease the clumps free, the long linear leaves are easily ripped from the bulb. Avoid this at all costs; the goodness in the foliage has to return to the bulb as it naturally fades to ensure strength for next year’s show.
By hand, tease out individual bulbs, all soil, leaf litter, is destined for the compost heap. It is just the bulbs “in the green” you want. Waste nothing; there will be seedlings and bulbs from the depth of the clump with no leaves. The nature of the tightly packed bulbs prevents some shooting out. As you find these, if these are plump and firm, replant with the others, they will grow and probably flower next year.
This is a fast moving task, the bulbs settle in best if they do not dry out during the transplanting process. Just the reason it is always said to plant in the green. Buying dry bulbs in autumn just does not give the same establishment success. Use a bucket or trug with a cloth covering the lifted bulbs to prevent drying out. Lift only the number of clumps you can deal with.
Depth of planting? About twice the depth of the size of the bulb. Often the white section of the base of the leaf is used as a guide to depth of replanting. However where congested clumps have clambered upon each other or there is a depth of leaf litter in the original planting site this may not be a reliable guide.
Watering in? I don’t usually bother. If you have kept the bulbs moist during the transplanting process and they have gone into moist soil, firmed gently around them, then there is no need. The foliage is going to senesce and return the goodness within, to the bulb during the next few weeks. Also, rainfall and or heavy dew on the foliage will suffice.