30k bulbs on display at Ciener Botanical Garden

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Muscari armeniacum-grape hyacinths, and Tulipa sylvestris-wild tulips, surround a Tulipa 'Prinses Irene'-triumph tulip as seen in one of the garden bedsduring the spring bulb display at the Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden in Kernersville. (Bruce Chapman/Journal)

KERNERSVILLLE, N.C. — There are few finer weeks on the calendar than the ones that fill the month of April. Mid-April is high bulb season, and Paul J Ciener Botanical Garden is a great place to go celebrate it.

You can restore your winter-weary soul on 30,000 flowering bulbs that develop in succession from early to late April.

Bulbs are displayed throughout the gardens, but the concentration is in the Victorian inspired Pattern Garden designed by Chip Calloway. Calloway, CEO and president of Calloway and Associates, has been involved with the PJC garden since its inception. He specializes in historic gardens and restorations.

Brent and Becky’s Bulbs of Gloucester, Va., has been a strong supporter of the garden from the beginning. Adrienne Roethling, the PJC gardens curator, makes a couple of trips a year to the bulb farm to collect unsold bulbs for the fall and summer plantings.

Roethling picks from the available bulbs and then devises a plan that will present a complimentary color scheme that progresses through the spring-flowering season.

Roethling said that she likes to combine the pastel colors and yellows and mostly avoids reds that she finds difficult to work with.

Because she never knows what will be available at the farm, the plan always changes.

“I look for early, mid-season and late bloomers,” Roethling said. “All the bulbs are planted around New Year’s and they are all planted by hand. Roethling said that compost and mulch are sufficient and they don’t fertilize the bulbs.

All of the bulbs are removed from the Pattern Garden in preparation for the summer planting of annuals. This chore is lightened by volunteers and students with visiting school groups. None of the bulbs are wasted. They are either replanted elsewhere in the garden or they find a new home with those involved in excavating them.

The garden has an annual event around peak bulb flowering time each year. This year’s Spectacular Spring Tulip Bloom was last weekend.

Roethling led tours throughout the developed areas of the garden and John Whisnant, the executive director, explained the role of PJC in the community.

Whisnant said that over 400 people attended the event from Morganton, Liberty, Greensboro, Winston Salem, High Point, Burlington, Yadkinville, Archdale, Lewisville, Clemmons, Charlotte, Danville and Kernersville.

The bulb fest celebrated the beauty of the awakening season and commemorated the garden’s beginning in April 2011, when the gates were first opened to the public.

Since that time, a series of gardens have progressed around the central visitor’s center, including an innovative, three-season perennial border, a wonderful raised-bed kitchen garden and areas dedicated to sub-tropicals in the summer.

“We are beginning work on the Hourglass Garden next month,” said Whisnant. “When this area is completed, it will open up the entire lower half of the garden to the public for the first time.”

Whisnant hopes this work will be completed by the end of the summer. The Hourglass Garden is also designed by Callaway and will feature flowering, night-scented plants. The area surrounds a grotto, pool and rill and is splayed below the patio terrace, an excellent vantage point to view the lower section of the garden. The patio also serves as a wonderful gathering spot for weddings and other social events.

Once the Hourglass is completed, Roethling plans to move toward beginning the Woodland and Conifer Gardens.

Meanwhile, PJC is utilizing their current spaces by offering educational field trips for third graders and working with diverse groups such as: AIDS patients, mentally challenged adults and the Brenner FIT program, which is designed to help children who have health problems because of their weight.

Kids with the FIT program harvest and eat vegetables that they have gathered from the kitchen garden. Produce not used with interpretive programs is harvested by food pantries.

Paul J Ciener Botanical Gardens is growing its programs, its gardens, its seasonal displays and its role in the community. Check their websitewww.cienerbotanicalgarden.org for updates on programs and events.

If you have a gardening question or story idea, write to David Bare in care of Features, Winston-Salem Journal, P.O. Box 3159, Winston-Salem, NC 27101-3159 or send an email to his attention to gardening@wsjournal.com.