Animals like to dig up and eat tulip bulbs

Dear Anne,

“I bought and forgot a large bag of beautiful tulip bulbs. I planned on planting them in a three-foot deep raised bed on my south-facing boulevard. I don’t mind if they flower later than usual. Should I plant the bulbs now and hope for success?

If so, should I plant less deeply than normal and is bone meal necessary?”

Christina B., Vancouver

Dear Christina,

Do go ahead and plant them before the ground freezes again. Tulips are prairie-hardy – and cope with much colder temperatures than we get here. Besides being late-blooming, planting now may result in their being smaller than usual. But they will bloom if they survive local animals.

Planting depth isn’t a cold issue in tulips (it can be with less hardy plants).

But squirrels deliberately sniff out tulip bulbs and eat them. So if your only defence is depth, deep planting is better than shallow – even though this means they’ll flower even later.

Wire laid above the planting is good protection. Or you might try planting the bulbs within mesh bags – it’s very important the mesh is large enough for shoots to thrust through. Pea netting mesh is about the right size.

Though it’s nice to get net bags for free, most fruit mesh bags have mesh that’s too small for tulip shoots (it’s often okay for crocuses – squirrels eat crocuses, too).

Bonemeal would be good nourishment for tulips – but you could have big trouble on a boulevard because of dogs or coyotes. To canines, bonemeal smells like bones.

Dear Anne,

“Is it possible to start new plants by taking a cutting from flowering red current bushes? I have one that’s getting quite tall. I want to top it and start another plant.”

Pat MacAlister, Langley

Dear Pat,

You can still start hardwood cuttings in January or February. Just cut a short branch (or tear a short branch away from a bigger one so that you get a strip of skin as well (a ‘heel). Any leaves or shoots that will be in the soil should be removed.

Rooting hormone in the raw places where the leaves were or in the heel helps, but isn’t essential.

You can also start cuttings by removing any short, new growth in late summer or fall and going through the same routine. But in dry times of year you have to hover over cuttings to keep them watered.

Dear Anne,

“I bought boxwood honeysuckle from a plant sale. Somebody took the tag but I remembered it said 10 feet. Somebody told me a 10-foot honeysuckle must be a vine. The nursery said that boxwood means it is a bush. Will you please tell me about this?”

Mary, Burnaby

Dear Mary,

This is lonicera nitida. It’s an evergreen bush growing to about 10’ (3 metres) tall and 8’ (2.5m) wide. It’s easy to prune and stays densely bushy. But if you prune frequently, you don’t get flowers or berries.

The flowers grow thickly all along the underside of the branches. They’re tiny, cream-coloured with a strong honeysuckle fragrance. The berries are lovely globes of metallic purple but birds quickly eat them.

Lonicera nitida is hardy, drought-tolerant and takes any kind of soil. There are many variegated-leaf kinds and pretty gold-leaf one called ‘Baggsen’s Gold.’

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