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Larry Sagers
Hyacinths, which come in shades of blue, purple, pink, white or yellow, are the most fragrant of all the bulbs.

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.

The next flower you don't want quite as close. Fritillaria — or crown imperial — is a very impressive flower that has a cluster of downward facing blossoms on a tall stock. It also is sometimes referred to as a skunk lily.

The odor keeps the deer and rodents away, but it also is not a smell that you want next to your spring picnic. These come in various shades of orange, red or yellow.

Another excellent bulb to add to your collection is scilla, also known as squill or bluebells. In spite of the name, it is also available with white or pink flowers. These are very dependable, long-term performers in your garden. They will add a wonderful touch with their multiple spikes of blossoms in the late spring.

The glorious spring bulbs are wonderful performers. Few flowers can rival their burst of magnificent colors and they reassure us that we will have another gardening season. Find your choices and get them planted to enjoy these wonderful gifts of nature.

Garden tips

Celebrate the Utah Botanical Center's 10-year anniversary at the Garden Fair Festival on Sept. 17. The Center is located at 920 S. 50 West in Kaysville. Bring the entire family and enjoy classes and activities centered on the fall harvest For more information, call 801-544-3089 or log on to utahbotanicalcenter.org.

Richard Anderson, greenhouse manager at the Utah Botanical Center, is offering a class on harvestng and saving your favorite flower garden seeds on Thursday, Sept. 15, noon-1 p.m., at the Ogden Botanical Center, 1750 Monroe Blvd., Ogden. To register, log on to www.utahbotanicalcenter.org. The class will also be taught Saturday, Sept. 17, 9 a.m.-10:30 a.m., at the Utah Botanical Center's farmers market tent.

Red Butte Garden is offering a class on residential landscape design on Tuesdays, Sept. 20-Oct. 18, from 6-9 p.m. Participants will lean how to draw a plan, analyze the site and use landscape design principles to lay out paths, patios and garden beds. Cost is $176 for members and $194 for nonmembers. Registration is required at 587-5433, 581-6464 or www.lifelong.utah.edu.

Red Butte is also offering a seed collecting workshop on Saturday, Sept. 24, 10 a.m.-noon. Bring sharp hand pruners. Cost is $18 for members and $23 for nonmembers. Registration is required at 587-5433, 581-6464 or www.lifelong.utah.edu.

Larry A. Sagers is a horticulture specialist for the Utah State University Extension Service at Thanksgiving Point.