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Originally published Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 5:31 AM

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Plant container bulbs now, but don’t overprune roses

Garden writer Ciscoe Morris says now is the time to plant bulbs in containers for spring color, and he warns not to overprune roses in fall.

Special to The Seattle Times

Gardening Events

Ciscoe’s Picks

The Evergreen Chrysanthemum Association’s Mum Show: 1-5 p.m. Friday Oct. 25, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday Oct. 26-Sunday Oct. 27, Furney’s Nursery, 21215 International Blvd., Des Moines.

Dunn Gardens 2013 Fall Foliage Festival: 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27. Enjoy autumn colors, storytelling, vendors, crafts for children, pumpkins, silent auction and refreshments at annual membership thank-you event. Dunn garden members are free, nonmember by donation. RSVP required. The garden is in North Seattle (

Plant Amnesty Halloween Bingo: 6-9 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 29. Join Plant Amnesty founder Cass Turnbull and Ciscoe Morris. Costumes are welcome but not required. Cost is $30 for chili, salad, dessert and bingo cards. Must be 18+ to participate. Shilshole Bay Beach Club, 6413 Seaview Ave. N.W., Seattle (

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In the Garden

A container full of spring flowering bulbs is a great way to enjoy a colorful spring display, even if you live in a condo or an apartment.

Bulbs must be planted and spend the winter outdoors in order to bloom, so start by choosing a frost-free container. Choose one that is wide enough to hold enough bulbs to put on an impressive display and deep enough to enable you to plant the bulbs three times as deep as they are wide while allowing a little extra room at the bottom for root growth.

Make sure the container has plenty of drain holes and purchase quality potting soil for this project. Soil dug out of the garden will hold too much moisture and cause the bulbs to rot. Mix organic-bulb food and bone meal into the soil before planting, and as a last step, water the bulbs in, just as you would if you were planting them out in the garden.

When it comes to choosing what to plant, any type of bulb will work in a container. It’s fun to make interesting combinations using different kinds of bulbs.

Layer different kinds of bulbs in the pot by simply planting each type at its proper depth. Start with the bigger bulbs near the bottom and work your way up covering each layer with soil as you go. On the top, plant evergreen ground covers and pansies for winter interest.

Leave adequate spacing between bulbs to allow the stems to work their way up through the layers and make sure to choose bulbs that bloom at the same time.

Think of all the exciting combinations you could make. Who could view a container bursting with blooms of black-velvet ‘Queen of the Night’ tulips paired with the snow white blossoms of Nasturtium thalia, all floating above a blanket of shimmering black mondo grass without shouting “Oh, la, la”!

Don’t prune your roses hard in fall

Pruning roses back hard this time of year can make them more susceptible to cold damage. It also robs them of valuable energy stored in the canes needed for strong growth in spring.

Don’t, however, put those rose shears away for the winter quite yet. It’s important to do some light pruning to keep the winter wind from raising havoc with your roses. Cut back any branches that grew extraordinarily tall making them likely to catch the wind, thereby causing the entire shrub to rock back and forth in the ground. Frequent rocking in cold weather can seriously harm roots, and weaken or kill a rose.

Even in areas without a lot of wind, a winter storm can catch overly tall branches and blow a rose over with dire consequences. Just as bad, long branches tend to whip in the wind, and if extra long ones are allowed to remain on a rose planted near a walkway, a passer-by could get smacked in the face.

Cut any tall branches back just far enough so that they won’t act as a sail or flog pedestrians. Then wait until late February or early March to give your rose its annual ‘Buhner’ buzz cut.

With all of the stored energy and a healthy root system, it will grow back strong to produce beautiful blossoms by early summer.

Ciscoe Morris: “Gardening With Ciscoe” airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING-TV.

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About Ciscoe Morris

Ciscoe Morris' column runs Thursdays. His show "Gardening with Ciscoe" airs at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on King 5.

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