The Buzz

Bulbs Herbs

Planting bulbs in Memphis is not any more difficult than planting them elsewhere, but to many of us it may seem that way. Our mothers—grand, great-grand, and beyond—successfully accomplished this task and evidence of their toil may still be sprouting skyward each spring, reminding us of them. Please be assured that nothing has been lost—we are not orphans to this. All one needs in order to successfully plant bulbs is knowledge of when to plant as well as a basic understanding of what bulbs need to grow. The first part is simple: in Memphis, you should wait until after Thanksgiving to plant. The other required facts serve bulbs well anywhere and are listed as thus: sunlight requirement—dictating location—in addition to soil type and water and nutrition needs. Spacing and bulb depth are also important factors, here.

Knowing the soil depth and/or spacing a particular bulb requires will not mean a thing if it does not end up receiving the correct amount of sunlight. These bits of information are species-specific and should be provided by your supplier either online or on the package itself. Should this information not exist, however, take it as a general rule that abundant sunshine is usually required unless otherwise specified—for shadier varieties a plot beneath an established tree would be fine. As far as planting depth goes, usually 2-3 times the length of the bulb should suffice; the same goes for spacing between individual bulbs. This being said, I would stay away from suppliers not providing this information.

Soil with good drainage is a must for bulbs. Standing water after a rain is not good drainage—in such soil the bulbs you planted will rot. Combat this by adding composted leaves or manure to the soil in substantial quantities as this should improve the drainage. These amendments should be tilled in before planting. Regardless of whether or not you amended the soil, watering the soil after planting is a good idea. In fact, bulbs require significant moisture from the planting time right until they bloom in the spring. It should be understood, however, that after blooming, heavy, subsequent irrigation will mimic poor draining soil and may cause the bulbs to rot.

Fertilizing the flower bed with a low-nitrogen fertilizer before planting, and once the shoots appear, is good practice. With this, it is better if the fertilizer used is a slow release variety specifically designed for bulbs. You should also mulch with 2-3 inches of organic material after planting.

Spent flowers may be snipped off if unappealing but take care not to damage the leaves of the plant, as the foliage must die back naturally—a process which allows the bulb to store all potential for life next spring. Removing spent flowers allows the bulb to put all its energy in producing new blooms for next year instead of producing seed.

Daffodils are always the most permanent of bulbs in our climate. In the case of tulips and hyacinths the results of them repeating the first years performance is disappointing, so here at MBG we treat these as annuals and remove them after blooming.

By Blair Combest, MBG Horticulture Assistant

Christmas time is in the air: the sharp, clean scents of cedar, pine and fir trees; the spicy scents of cinnamon, cloves and rosemary; the sweet odors of peppermint, vanilla, pumpkin pie, and chocolate; the savory odors of baked ham, sage, and warming breads.

What do you remember of the holiday season from your childhood? I imagine scent is one of the biggest factors – science has proven scent to be one of the biggest triggers of memory: cooking meats, casseroles, dressing or stuffing, pies, cookies, coffee, and even your Christmas tree and mantle swags all fall under this category of memory joggers.

I would like to honor this season of scents by giving you a gift from the herb garden: a recipe for a non-alcoholic, warming drink you can enjoy on the upcoming frosty days.

Mulled Herbal Cider

yield: 2 quarts

Four (4-inch sprigs) fresh rosemary

Four (4-inch sprigs) fresh thyme

Four (4-inch sprigs) fresh sage

2 quarts apple cider, fresh

Rosemary and thyme sprigs for garnish

  • Combine herbs and cider in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat
  • Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes
  • Serve immediately while warm. Garnish with rosemary and thyme sprigs.

If you do not have fresh herbs, you could substitute dried. Try 1 ½ tablespoons dried rosemary, 2 teaspoons dried thyme, and about 1 tablespoon of dried sage. The rule is to use about one third dried herb of the amount of fresh herb specified. If you used dried herbs, you might want to pour the liquid through a fine sieve to remove the bits of dried plant material. Be sure to rub the dried herbs between the palms of your hands before adding them to the liquid – this “reactivates” the essential oils in the dried herb.

Herbs are always personal: if something seems strong, reduce the amount used next time; if an herb seems too weak, add more! If you would like a little kick to this, add a jigger of your favorite alcoholic beverage. If you want a real kick add a couple of hot peppers while heating! A slice of lemon, orange, or lime could be used as a garnish per glass…Changes and additions are all based on your preferences, and limited only by your imagination. (For wassail: use 6 whole cloves and 2 cinnamon sticks instead of the rosemary, thyme, and sage.)

If this recipe strikes your fancy, you might be interested in the Hot Herbal Beverages tasting class scheduled for February 16, 2018, 12-1pm. Members $2/Non-Members $12. Call (901) 636-4128 to register.


By Sherri McCalla, curator of the Herb Garden at MBG

Posted by Memphis Botanic Garden at 9:30 AM


For updates and more!

Enhancing lives by connecting people with plants to increase awareness and appreciation of our environment.


Central Daylight Time Hours:
9 a.m.-6 p.m.

Central Standard Time (Winter) Hours:
9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Have a question?

Daily Garden Admission

Adults $10.00
Seniors (62 & over) $8.00
Children (2-12) $5.00
Children (under 2) FREE
Members FREE
* Handicapped Accessible

Group Visits



We are located at:
750 Cherry Road
Memphis, TN 38117
(Between Park & Southern)

Directions & Parking