Planting For Spring, Foxtails, and Downward Facing Dog

Eremerus stenophyllus

Hopefully from the title of today’s post, I have piqued your interest. What exactly do these three things have to do with one another, you ask? Today we started planting 23,000 bulbs at Coastal Maine for a wonderful spring display. This is the biggest number of bulbs that we have ever planted in the fall. At the end of today, we estimated that we had planted close to 9,000 bulbs. Have you ever planted bulbs for more than 4 hours? After several hours, your knees, back, shoulders, and wrists start to hurt. I have decided that after the age of 40, Aleve should be a free medication. That or red wine.

To alleviate some of the strains and pains, we would take stretch breaks to loosen up our bodies. I would get in one of my favorite stretches, the downward facing dog. Good thing our visitation has lessened for the season as doing yoga in public is not one of my favorite things. As I type this post tonight, reminding myself to keep my back straight with good posture and a glass of good red wine beside of the laptop, I am thinking back on the day and hoping that many others are thinking of planting their spring flowering bulbs as well.

We are planting the customary spring flowering bulbs: daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths, but this year we are adding a new bulb to the mix. A lot of people have never seen a foxtail lily in flower. Hopefully, in the spring of 2014, guests will see several hundred of them at CMBG. The foxtail lily (Eremerus stenophyllus) flowers in late spring on 3-4′ tall yellow spikes. The flowers are unlike any others that gardeners have seen here along the east coast of the United States. They start flowering at the bottom of the inflorescence, around 2′ above the ground. The bright yellow flowers continue to open as the flower stalks mature, with the last flowers opening near the end.

Eremurus stenophyllus High Line

When you buy foxtail lilies, they will arrive as dormant bulbs in the fall. The main bulb should appear fleshy with a slightly yellow tip. Emanating off of this bulb will be several roots about the diameter of a drinking straw. The roots are 6-8″ in length so they look like light brown spiders. These roots should not be damaged so it is best to plant the bulbs in a trench 6″ deep. The site should be in full sun with well drained soil. Eremerus are wild to rocky outcrops in Pakistan and Iran to give you an idea of their natural growing conditions. They are hardy from USDA zone 5-8, needing an additional protective mulch in zones 5 and 6.

Ours are all in the ground and I cannot wait to see them emerge in late spring of 2014. Until then, there is tomorrow and we have another 14,000 bulbs to plant by Thursday afternoon. If you look at my grocery shopping list, you’re bound to see Aleve and red wine on that list this week.

Rodney

Photos: Van Meuwen, The High Line

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rodney eason

Rodney Eason - Director of Horticulture and Plant Curator at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, father of 4, husband to a Renaissance woman. I spent the first part of my life in North Carolina, the middle in Pennsylvania, and now I am determined to become a Mainer  while keeping my southern drawl. I consider the rhetorical question, "you're not from around here, are you?" a compliment. I love great gardens, beautiful plants, and inspiring architecture. Because of this, I am on a lifelong quest to find a garden that artistically combines beautiful plants while being centered around an evocative building. For me, this would be Beatrix Farrand's Dumbarton Oaks, with the plants of Lotusland and Chanticleer, around Fay Jones' Thorncrown Chapel. My wife and I are now making our new home and garden in a 130 year old New England house with a farmer's porch near the Damariscotta River in coastal Maine. When our kids get into college, we want to hike the Appalachian Trail as a family over a summer break. My likes (in random order): the smell of fresh basil and rosemary, bold foliage, India Pale Ale, good running shoes, Top Gear, the smell of New England in the fall (it reminds me a bit of English Leather, which my grandfather wore), and the sound of our family laughing together around the dinner table. I dream of one day owning an old Toyota 4X4 pick-up and seeing the Avett Brothers in concert.

2 Comments

  1. Amy Murphy on October 30, 2013 at 10:12 am

    The foxtail lillies should be wonderful come spring. I plant them every few years in my garden…you should know that they come in other colors – white, pink and orange. I think one of the reasons we don’t see them very often in East Coast gardens is they are expensive and they need to be treated as annuals in our zones, and they are not always reliable to bloom BUT they are majestic and well worth the effort and expense.

  2. Jacob on December 5, 2013 at 4:00 am

    Well, I plan to grow Muscari and Amaryllis bulb in backyard.

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