The beauty of spring bulbs is that once you plant them, they give a great show of colour, year after year, in the early spring.
They go dormant after blooming so don’t take up space in the garden the way early spring-blooming perennials do.
Spring bulbs can be planted right up until the ground freezes, but will get a better start if planted sooner.
Plant bulbs at a depth of two and a half times their diameter with smaller bulbs in clusters of about 12 and clusters of five for larger ones.
If you want them to multiply, choose varieties that are labelled as naturalizing.
Spring bulbs provide early food for pollinators.
The earliest bloomers are snowdrops and winter aconite (bright yellow buttercup-like flowers).
Crocus bloom next. Choose snow crocus as they have less foliage to die back.
There are many early, mid and late-season varieties of tulips and narcissus. I recommend dwarf and species tulips as they seem to bloom longer, naturalize well and leave less foliage to die.
If you have deer or rodent problems, plant narcissus. No animals will eat them as they are poisonous. Avoid tulips—deer candy.
Alliums (ornamental onions) are another type of bulb that is animal-proof. There are early, mid and late blooming varieties.
A very easy-care, four seasons-of-interest garden can be made using ornamental grasses under-planted with spring bulbs.
Most ornamental grasses provide winter structure in a garden. The only maintenance they need is to be cut down to about four to six inches above ground before the new growth emerges.
When the grasses are cut down the spring bulbs will provide lots of colour. As their foliage is dying down, the new growth of the grass will hide the dying bulb foliage which must be left until yellowing so bulb can store food for next year’s bloom.
There are two types of ornamental grass. Cool-season varieties start growing about late February and bloom in June, for example, feather reed grass (Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’).
Warm-season grasses begin growing in April and bloom in September, for example switch grass (Panicum species).
These varieties will need some irrigation during the dry summer. The best method is drip.
I recommend using at least one variety of each type to have early growth plus fall bloom in an ornamental grass garden.
Fall is an excellent time to create a grass garden as the fall blooming grasses are more readily available than in spring.
Mark your calendars for an Oct. 4 trip to the Pacific Agricultural Research Centre in Summerland. They are celebrating their centennial with an open house. The Ornamental Gardens will also have special activities. I’ll give details next week.
To learn more about water-wise gardening I invite you to join me for my two night xeriscape class ‘Introduction to the Principles of Xeriscape’ on Wednesday, Oct. 1 and 8, 7-9 p.m. Details and registration information are on the OXA website www.okanaganxeriscape.org.