Fall Planted Spring Bulbs

In late summer we may still be relishing the vines and roses but the garden clock is ticking as our sun exposure moves almost imperceptibly southward. Slightly shorter days, kiddies back to school or a little chill in the morning signal the changes that the cycle of nature attunes us to. The fruits of the earth will soon be hidden as cold rain and snow transform the northern hemisphere. But gardeners know that the blossoming world always is waiting in bare branches and under the soggy ground and delight in this anticipation. Like smart squirrels we get busy in fall secreting away our daydreams to think about when winter is upon us.

The Dreamworthy Bulb Garden
At Bulb & Bloom, our inspiration comes from exuberant bursts of color in the wildflowers of our region. The dramatic natural theatrics of fields and hillsides are imitated in our gardens in their abundance and ease of design. Every bulb is represented by thick plantings; no stately rows of King Alfreds but clusters and patches along pathways, under trees, and in pots. We try new bulbs each year and pay special attention to how well they do that first year. Like wildflowers that bloom in succession we plan for the earliest crocus to late blooming tulips and daffodils so there are flowers for months as the green world is waking. Nothing soothes the winter blues better than sunshine yellow blooms dancing in the breeze.

To Start Or Improve A Garden
Follow the bloom times; being generous with inexpensive bulbs. Dig or prepare site by breaking up dirt, discarding stones; easiest after a first rain. If soil is depleted work in some fresh organic soil and check the recommended planting depth for each kind of bulb. Think ahead how each area looks in springtime and how you might want it to look Where is the sunlight best? What color schemes say "spring is here" to you? What early-blooming bushes and plants or garden features can you compliment? Do you want fresh flowers for celebrations? Just an extra bag or two of daffodils will yield abundant bouquets. You can draw out a little map ahead of time, figuring the number of bulbs needed and plotting a succession of flowers for each area. Keeping a record helps remind you what’s already in the ground. The next year you will have the names of favorites you would like more of. Don’t forget to pot up some bulbs for windowsills and patios for an up close display.

Top Ten Successful Spring Bulbs
Earliest Crocus in yellow, purple and white may bloom in late winter; sparse grassy green foliage, pops up close to the ground. Plant 2-3 in. deep where they will be visible, Easter-egg shape opens and closes to the sun. Also later blooming giant Dutch Crocus. Naturalizes well in cool winter zones.

Paperwhites: Old fashioned white Narcissus are earliest "daffodil" type to bloom. Returns for dozens of years. Plant where spring sun is warm. Simple flat stars on many stems per bulb. Amazing strong perfume.

Daffodils: Also called Narcissus, Jonquil. Look for small flowers for early bloom like Minnow, and Tete a Tete which are multi-flowered. For the next bloom, look for sturdy stemmed daffodils that will survive winds and rain. For mid season the choice is yours in single or double blooms, multi-stemmed or huge singles. Colors are every shade of yellow, white, cream, orange accented, and even PINK. Many daffodils return year after year.

Scilla: Also called Squill, Wood Hyacinth, and Bluebells. Blue, pink or white flower bells on lush leaved plants. Charming small plant in dappled sunlight. Naturalizes easily.

Muscari: Often called grape hyacinth, multi short stems covered in tiny purple bells.

Snowdrops: Tall stems arch and dangle pure white small bells, each petal ending with a green dot. Not to be confused with Snowflake which bears wing shaped white flowers. Mid-season bloom.

Tulips: Planted in fall along with the other bulbs; in some zones used as annuals because the climate does not match optimum conditions and new bulbs are planted each year. For a chance at returning tulips, growers recommend Species bulbs. Planting in an area not watered through the summer may bring bloom again next year. Bloom times span from very early to very late. Try a wild painted Tulip or pool of one color in several styles. Get some new ideas at Brecks Bulbs: Brecks.com.

Ixia and Spraxia: Sometimes called windflowers, pretty, splotchy or striped in white, pink and orange upturned small open trumpets. Blooms in mid to late spring. Plant once and forget, they spread and return.

Freesia: Wirey stems remind you of a candelabra with an upturned row of scented bells. Many pastels bloom in late spring. Small plant, best tucked in among shorter plants or in pots. Your grandmother’s garden may have had drifts of pale cream freesia with yellow insides, unavailable now. For a very close match see freesias at www.oldhousegardens.com.

Iris: Dutch Iris (really a rhizome) is an easy to grow simple iris. Plant a counterpoint blue among the yellows, many shades and white, graceful leaves and stems. Blooms early to mid-season.

If your dreamworthy bulb garden has performed its magic, perennials will be arriving and you’ll be stocking up on annuals. Let the leaves of your bulbs fade back among the foliage of other plants and trim out when the have become dried and unsightly. Watering through the bloom time if it is not raining will prolong the flowers. Congratulate yourself for designing the framework of an annual spring garden.