If for some reason there was only one thing you could do this fall in your garden, what would you choose to do? That would be a simple choice for me. I would plant some spring flowering bulbs. Now there is some delayed gratification for you. All winter as the wind is howling and the snow is flying, there are those little cheery flower babies just waiting for the first ray of spring sun to coax them out of the ground and into flower. From the minute you plant them there is something to look forward to in the next year.
There are lots of bulbs that are fool proof. Critters don’t eat them in the ground or chomp off their flowers just before they bloom. Tulips and crocus definitely do not fall into this category. Daffodils, on the other hand do. There are literally hundreds of different daffodils from a few inches tall to almost 2 feet tall. They range in color from white to yellow, pink and orange. There are multi-flowered stems and single flowering types, long trumpets, short trumpets and double trumpets. They bloom in April and May and by choosing several types you can have them blooming for all of the two months.
A tiny little Napoleon that can really rock you out of your winter blues is called Winter Aconite, (Eranthis hyemalis). As soon as the snow melts, there it is, bright lemon yellow urns held above recurved dark green collars of spiky foliage, with the remaining drifts of snow still all around it. It likes a bit of shade and so it is great under a tree near a path you will be walking to and from every day to get to your car or mailbox.
Many of the minor bulbs are the true heralds of spring. They are called minor because of their diminutive size. They lack nothing in exuberance, color or the joy they bring. Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) pop right through any opening in the snow from the first clearing in March. Their white and green nodding heads seem to laugh at the remnants of winter. Rock Garden Iris (Iris danfordiae, reticulate or tuberose) also bloom in March and April. Their bright blues, yellows, purple and mahogany burst forth over night and seem to lift their arms up toward the sky. Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa), with bright blue, pink or white star shaped flowers naturalize into drifts that seem to bring the sky right down into your garden.
A bit later, Grecian Windflower (Anemone blanda) with bright daisy like flowers and delicate fern-like foliage sway in the breeze just 4 inches above the ground. They are delightful planted in drifts near your favorite outdoor bench or under an old knurly tree.
There are many more bulbs and except for tulips, crocus and lilies, most are disease and pest free. So stick to the trouble free ones, this is supposed to be about gratification, not frustration and pest control! Mix and match them and have fun. This Oct and November plant a bit of your own delayed gratification. The local Garden Centers have a nice selection of many bulbs. We have two local bulb specialists, DeJager in Hamilton and Messelaar in Ipswich, both excellent. If you prefer catalogues, try John Scheepers or the Daffodil Mart. As a rule you plant them four times deeper than the length of the bulb. Thus a one inch bulb should be planted 4 inches deep and a 2 inch bulb should be between 6 and 8 inches deep (right side up). If you want them to look naturalized, a good technique is to take a handful and throw them gently. Plant them just where they land. You can use bulb fertilizer or bone meal. But Most bulbs are large enough to flower very well the first year, and bone meal is very tempting to dogs. They will dig it and the bulbs up! Then top dress the bulbs next year after they flower and the foliage is trying to develop flower parts for the following year. It is best to let the tops dye down on their own. At least let them stay green and don’t cut them back for 4 to 6 weeks after they are finished flowering. A good way to accomplish this is to plant them in with late emerging perennials. Then the developing perennials hide the maturing foliage. If you would like some help selecting or planting bulbs, please contact us and we will be glad to help.