Now's the time to start planning for spring flower beds

Published: Sunday, Sept. 11 2011 3:00 p.m. MDT

To provide continuous color in your spring garden, plant a variety of tulips that bloom early, midseason or late. In addition, pay attention to the flower height and spread.

Larry Sagers

While it might seem that you've hardly had time to enjoy your summer flower beds, the time to start planting your spring beds is almost upon us.

Fall is in the air and that means planting spring flowers is just a few weeks away.

While spring flowers are an interesting collection of many kinds of plants, most people think of spring blooming bulbs when you mention this group.

While they are among the showiest of all of the spring flowers, they are certainly not the only contributors.

Those who have enjoyed the beautiful spring flower beds at Temple Square, Thanksgiving Point Gardens, Red Butte Gardens or any of the other stunning gardens in the area know how beautiful the spring flowering bulbs can be.

While tulips and daffodils seem to be the mainstays, there are a whole host of less common bulbs.

Nature has created most of these bulbs with a built-in survival mechanism.

Many of these bulbs come from Mediterranean or desert climates. In the desert, they have to grow and bloom in the cool spring weather when moisture is available.

After they bloom, most of these bulbs die back to the ground. They then spend the hot dry summer in their native environment as a dormant bulb with no foliage showing.

This built-in survival mechanism means that almost all spring flowering bulbs must be planted in the fall. They have to go through a mandatory chilling requirement to bloom next spring.

If you live in a warm climate, and plant tulips, they will not bloom the next spring unless you chill them in the refrigerator for two or three months. In our area, we let nature take care of the chilling by planting in the fall.

The dormant bulbs are now available for purchase at local nurseries. For showy spring gardens, shop early for best selection. These are seasonal items, and once the stock is gone, most retail outlets will not have more available until next year.

Choose your bulbs based on several criteria.

First, look at the bloom season. Snowdrops and crocus are usually the first bulbs to bloom in the spring. Depending on your location and microclimate, these may pop out from under the snow in late February.

From that point you have to be more selective. There are early-, midseason- and late-blooming daffodils. The same is true of tulips. Again, looking at your growing conditions, some of these late tulips did not bloom this last spring until almost June.

In addition to bloom time, look at the flower height and spread, how long it lasts in the garden and also the color. Cost is also important as you might be planting hundreds of bulbs in a season.

To dress up your spring garden with other bulbs, consider the following.

Giant alliums are stunning when they bloom. While the plants are nothing more than ornamental onions, the stunning large round purple blossom clusters add a very showy touch to your garden.

In some cases, the cluster can be as much as 10 inches across. They are also resistant to deer and squirrel feeding. While most are purple, there are yellow, white and other colors available.

Crocuses are another dependable performer in Utah in their early yellow, lavender, purple or white blossoms are a wonderful harbinger of spring.

Hyacinths are certainly one of the most fragrant of all of the bulbs. They will adorn your garden with numerous shades of blue and purple, pink, white or yellow. Plant these where you can enjoy their heavenly fragrance.

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