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Bulb Lasagna: Not for eating, but for growing
You don't have to be Italian to make bulb lasagna.
I'm not talking about that tasty dish of tomato sauce, ricotta, mozzarella and lasagna noodles. Instead, I'm talking about layering bulbs to produce a full flower pot of blooms. By making bulb lasagna in September, you should have sprouts poking out of the soil in December and blooms by January.â€¨I have chosen bulbs in the Narcissus tazetta group (“Golden Dawn” and “Grand Primo”) and “Texas Star,” a natural hybrid between the wild jonquil and the wild narcissus because they do not need chilling and are perfect to grow in Yuma. There are many varieties in the tazetta group and all grow well here, since they are hardy in USDA zones 8-11. They bloom in winter and are commonly known as “paper whites,” although their blooms are not always white and can be yellow or bi-color.
“Tazetta” comes from the Italian word “tazza,” meaning shallow wine cup, which is used to describe the cup-like center, or corona, of the Narcissus tazetta bloom. Six delicate petals surround the corona and give the bloom its distinctive shape. This group has multiple blooms per stem, with as few as three or as many as 20. Most are extremely fragrant. Once planted, these bulbs will come up year after year and multiply, creating larger and larger clumps of flowering plants. All the care they require during their blooming season is regular watering.
I was always confused about the difference between a narcissus and a daffodil until I finally learned they are the same plant. Narcissus is the botanical (or Latin) name and daffodil is the common name for the entire genus of these bulbs which belong to the Amaryllidaceae family. The narcissus, or daffodil, group is divided into 13 official divisions. Division 7 is the jonquilla division. The name “jonquil” refers to any of the cultivars in Division 7. Therefore, all jonquils are daffodils, but not all daffodils are jonquils.
For a 20-inch-wide pot that is about 20 inches deep, purchase 7 Narcissus tazetta “Grand Primo” bulbs (white w/ yellow centers), 5 Narcissus tazetta “Golden Dawn” (yellow), and 4 Narcissus x intermedius “Texas Star” (yellow), or any combination of tazetta bulbs you like.
To begin, fill the pot three-quarters full of soil and sprinkle on one tablespoon of bulb food. Place the four ‘Texas Star' bulbs at each quarter point near the outer edge of the pot and cover with soil. Sprinkle one tablespoon of bulb food over the soil and place the “Golden Dawn” bulbs in the center of the pot and cover with soil. Sprinkle one tablespoon of bulb food over the soil and place the “Grand Primo” bulbs in a circle outside the area where the “Golden Dawn” bulbs were planted and cover with soil.
After planting, water the bulbs and set the pot outdoors. Thereafter, water as needed but do not add plant food to the water until bulbs sprout. Once sprouted, place the container in full sun to prevent the bulbs' leaves from growing too long and drooping. You can fertilize once during the blooming season, if you wish.
Bulb lasagna can be created using tulips, hyacinths and crocuses, but you will have to chill them 10-12 weeks before planting by placing them in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator, or in paper bags in the refrigerator in September. Be sure the bulbs are not exposed to apples while chilling because apples emit ethylene gas which kills the flower inside each bulb. By December, they will be ready to plant. Plant the tulips first, then hyacinths and then crocuses.
Once your bulb lasagna has finished blooming, cut off spent flowers, continue watering and feed the plants once every two weeks for two months until the leaves have dried completely. Do not cut off the leaves after blooming is finished because they continue to help the bulbs store nutrients for next year's blooms. When the leaves have dried, cut them off and move the pot to a shady location until next fall, or plant the bulbs in the ground. You can fertilize once during their dormant period. Narcissus tazetta bulbs are simple to grow and will reward you with long-lasting blooms each year.
Karen Bowen is a master gardener and member of Yuma Garden Club. This column is sponsored by the Federated Garden Clubs of Yuma.