Plant now for early spring color

By Kevin Denke
Posted 11/3/10

Linda C. Young

       Sometimes gardening provides instant gratification. Other times, you need to plan and work in advance to achieve results, and that …

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Plant now for early spring color


Linda C. Young

       Sometimes gardening provides instant gratification. Other times, you need to plan and work in advance to achieve results, and that is certainly the case with spring flowering bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils. Even though it felt like summer when the calendar said autumn, now is the time to plant bulbs for flowers next spring.
       I love daffodils and have planted many different varieties in my yard. Some bloom early and some bloom later, so I have flowers for several weeks. If you want a lot of flowers without spending a lot of money, look for bags of plain old yellow daffodils, also called jonquils. You can find daffodils that are miniatures, some that have double blossoms, two or more colors on the same flower, yellows and oranges with green highlights, white and pink. To extend your bloom time, look for a mixture of bulbs that indicate early spring, mid spring, and late spring bloom times. Tulips generally bloom later than daffodils, and they seem to come in every color imaginable now, including burgundies and purples that are so dark they are advertised as black. Tulips can be really stunning when several of the same color are planted together. Even a cluster of five red tulips in the right spot can really catch your eye in the garden. If you wish to have mixed colors, you need to plant at least several dozen of them for an attractive effect. Half a dozen pink and white tulips planted together just don’t make much of a show. There are a number of smaller bulbs that can provide a wonderful show of color, even when tucked into small spaces in your garden.
      Crocus are among the earliest to bloom and can be found in various shades of blue and purple, as well as gold and white. Also consider grape hyacinth, snowdrops and snowglories for old-fashioned, reliable spring flowers. Most of these bulbs will multiply each year. Tuck them in clusters around boulders, along a garden border, and near your front door where you can enjoy them. Bulbs will bloom before your trees put out leaves, so you can plant them under trees; they’ll be done blooming by the time shade is an issue. Daffodils and some other bulbs are poisonous, so if you have digging dogs, don’t plant in an area that they are likely to be dug.
      Bulbs are easy to plant, and should be readily available at nurseries or the big-box stores. They will come with planting instructions; the general rule is to plant the bulbs about three times as deep as their size at the tallest point, and with the more pointed end up, although with some small bulbs, it’s hard to tell the top from the bottom. The flowers will naturally grow towards the sun, so don’t worry about getting it wrong. Loosen the soil below the planting depth and mix in a little compost or bone meal. Bulbs need soil that drains well, so they don’t sit in water and rot, but otherwise they are not fussy. Water them when you plant them. But once established they don’t generally need supplemental irrigation. The bulb creates next year’s flowers from the current year’s dying foliage, so resist the urge to pull or cut the dead leaves until they turn yellow and are easily removed. If you plant bulbs among your shrubs and perennials, the dying foliage can be tucked under spring growth of the neighboring plants. Planting bulbs now will provide you with beautiful color spots come spring. They are easy, economical, reliable, and you will be happy you planted some when the first crocus pops up through the snow, or you spot your first daffodil blooming in early spring.

Linda C. Young, a Brighton resident, is a certified horticulturist and a member of the Garden Writer’s Association. She also has certificate in landscape design. E-mail her your gardening questions at


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