What to do this week Memorial Day marks the biggest planting weekend of the year, when you can put in just about anything, including tender annual flowers such as impatiens, summer bulbs such as dahlias, and summer vegetables and herbs such as tomatoes and basil. Shop now at nurseries while the selection is the greatest. Plant container gardens or buy them ready-made. Put a few grains of time-release fertilizer in the planting holes and water daily for the first week, then twice a week thereafter unless it rains. Buy an inexpensive plastic rain gauge. Using a soaker hose or drip irrigation will save on water bills.
Q. Explain why you stated: “Most large tulips won’t bloom again ever (“Ask the Gardener: This pretty plant invader will disrupt your Zen,’’ May 9).’’ I have planted large and small tulips at my home since 1976. I’d say 80 percent grow every year. Some tulips grow in their own bed and some share space in our vegetable garden.
A. After the first year, most large tulips just send up leaves with no flowers. Those relatively few tulips that do rebloom usually have much smaller flowers. To get even those, I have to wait while the leaves “cure,’’ slowly turning into sickly yellow eyesores marring my mixed plantings of lush, sprouting perennials. So I pull out spent tulips, bulbs and all, to avoid future disappointment and free up planting space for annuals. However, exceptions include the strain called Darwin Hybrid tulips, magnificent tall May flowers that can bloom for several seasons when left to cure, especially if planted deeply on a sunny hillside in sandy soil like you might find in Plymouth or the Netherlands. Some small-species tulips will also rebloom for years if they like their location and are left to cure, including yellow and pink Tulipa saxatilis, yellow Tulipa dasystemon, and Tulipa clusiana. I do love tulips and want to share that the most spectacular tulip display I saw this year was the new “Bloomfest’’ (with 165,000 tulip, daffodil, and other bulbs) at the rejuvenated Stevens-Coolidge House & Gardens in North Andover. The event just ended but visit thetrustees.org for information on next spring’s or on the new garden at Long Hill in Beverly designed by Julie Moir Messervy, which opens with a ticketed reception on June 26 ($75 for nonmembers).
Q. As I was adding bulbs and plants to my garden recently, I noticed a large population of extremely healthy, fat grubs. What are the grubs feasting on to make them so robust? My plants don’t seem any worse for wear, but is it possible they’re eating the roots?
A. There is a gardener’s saying: Grubs in the spring, no big thing. That’s because they nibble on plant roots in late summer and fall when they are tiny, then curl up and pretty well sleep through the winter and spring, waiting to transform into 100 kinds of mostly harmless and similar-looking beetles that will fly away. I don’t think you could poison them if you tried because they have stopped eating. However, even dormant, they provide valuable protein to nestlings, so leave them for foraging parent birds.
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