Garden Diary - June 2024

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Potting Seasonal Bulbs with Polly Nicholson
at the New York Botanical Gardens
Thursday, 13 June 2024

Having reviewed her new book, The Tulip Garden, it was fortuitous to attend her morning lecture and afternoon workshop at the New York Botanical Garden.

The description for this two hour workshop, Potting Seasonal Bulbs, Session Number: 244GAR544: Learn how to grow seasonal bulbs in containers with expert organic grower Polly Nicholson. Passionate about tulips, Nicholson has been growing species, both historic and annual garden varieties, for over fifteen years and she holds the National Collection of Tulipa (historic) in the UK.

Nicholson will share practical planting advice and maintenance tips that she applies on her English countryside estate, as she demonstrates how to pot up autumn flowering bulbs in containers. You'll learn alongside her as you pot up your own container, gaining the confidence & skills needed to implement these practices in your own garden, big or small.

Our class begins with a slide show of potted tulips in bloom. Small pots with a handful of tulips. Large tubs with 75 tulips.

Polly mentions that she uses only a single species tulip in each smaller pot. And then
mix and match an assortment. There are half a dozen pots on this carriage house table.

She describes her reasoning when choosing a blend of tulips, naming each cultivar.

Before we even came to the room, each place was set with a clay pot and saucer, a trowel,
small plastic Haws watering can, mesh circle to cover the pot's drainage hole, and 10 corms.
Since the course description mentions "autumn flowering bulbs" I thought they were crocus
(there are autumn flowering crocus.) Polly said they are acidanthera, Abyssinian gladiolus.

At Bayntun, her home, Polly is adamant about organic and peat free compost. NYBG obliged.

Polly demonstrates potting up the acidanthera corms, mentioning spacing and other details.

Place them with the pointed end up, as that is where the shoots emerge.

Once upon a time Acidanthera corms were very inexpensive. These were
at a Connecticut nursery perhaps 20 years ago. Or longer. Today, expect
to pay 40 or 50 cents for each corm, or more, depending on the vendor.

Acidanthera have fragrant white flowers, enhanced with a maroon blotch.
Potted in June, we can expect ours to flower in September. Which is autumn.

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