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Around the Yard

September 21, 2000|ROBERT SMAUS

Things to do this week:

* Plant fall-flowering bulbs. Though they may flower for a second year, saffron crocus usually don't, so corms must be planted each fall if you are to harvest the spicy stigmas or enjoy the lovely lavender flowers. They will flower almost as soon as you plant them. Pick the orange stigmas--the source of the precious spice--and let them dry before using (they practically pay for the bulbs).

Several other fall-planted bulbs, including the surprisingly delicate looking Crocus goulimyi and several other autumn crocus, will reliably bloom each autumn.

Colchicum bulbs also bloom in autumn, even sitting on the kitchen table! Snails may make life in the garden hazardous for this fat corm. Nerines are still another lovely fall-bloomer, but bulbs are usually available only in spring.

* Plant, divide bearded iris. Late summer and early fall are the time to divide and transplant bearded iris. It's also a good time to plant new ones. Remember not to completely bury the sweet potato-like tubers. Make sure the roots are covered with soil, but leave the very tops of the tubers exposed to the sun.

To divide existing iris that have no longer flowered like they used to, dig up the clumps, cut off the unproductive tubers--saving only those with a big healthy set of leaves--then trim the leaves and roots back to 6-inch stubs.

To replant the tidied-up tubers, arrange them into groups of three, and space each one about 4 to 6 inches apart so they will grow away from each other, not into an ever tighter circle. Space these groups of three 12 to 18 inches apart, and the iris will not need dividing for another three to five years.

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