By Deborah Hornblow, Hartford Magazine
Many gardeners and homeowners decorate their porches and patios with pots full of plants in summer, but springtime offers an opportunity to welcome the new season with container plantings created especially for this time of year.
“After a cold, gray winter, the sight of a colorful planter at a front door makes the entrance all the more inviting,” says M.J. McCabe, garden designer and owner of M.J. McCabe Garden Design of Northford.
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Above: This window box designed by M.J. McCabe, is planted with osteospermum, Daffodil ‘Tete a Tete,’ white-flowering angelonia, Iceland poppies, pansies and cascading ivy, and will withstand a light frost. (M. J. McCABE)
Many layered and multicolored spring bulbs brighten a pathway.
Mad about pink tulips!
Native American bulb blue Camassia in a bed of daffodils.
Scilla is very inexpensive and will spread quickly over the years to bring you waves of blue under trees and in your lawn–these are tiny easy to plant bulbs that bloom in April.
Stop the car colors!
Grouping differing bulbs in terms of form and height provides beautiful color in May
For late spring color in June go with alliums, they dry nicely in the garden to add texture and interest mixed with your perennials.
Tulip eau de parfum – fresh, clean, & soothing
Tulips are truly a breath of fresh air-like taking in the fragrance of sheets off the clothesline. For early spring color and sheer garden abundance, nothing beats a bed of willowy tulips in full bloom. A sea of tulips will certainly lift your spirits after any lingering grey of winter.
Generally, tulip varieties are divided into 15 different groups which categorizes them by bloom time and overall shape and form. Very early blooming and low growing, the greigii and kaufmanniana varieties are a great addition to your early spring garden. Species or wild tulips are smaller and more delicate in form-often the colors are quite vivid in hues of red or yellow. they tend to be easier to establish in the garden as they are somewhat less resistant to rodent damage.
Once established in well-drained soil, they multiply and rebloom each spring. Some reliable varieties to try are: sylvestris, clusiana, humilis, saxatilis and dasystemon. These are perfect for planting near doorways and rock gardens as they are the first to bloom in early spring.
Winter is the perfect time to think about creating a fresh and vibrant garden design that can be implemented this spring. Taking the time now allows you to explore what may be missing in your home landscape. Perhaps, you might consider a new walkway that leads out to the backyard for a more intimate connection between house and garden. Privacy screening in the form of large evergreens will block some unsightly views that have been bothersome in the past. The dream of a stone patio with a fire pit surrounded by billowy flowering perennials might fit perfectly into a large swath of unused lawn.
This is true for new homeowners who may have a totally blank slate as well as those who have an existing garden that may look congested and overgrown. A fresh perspective now may be the incentive to really dig in this spring to create a fresh and exciting new look to your landscape.
The view out of a main doorway or larger window of your home is the perfect starting point for creating a new garden this Winter. This is the perfect opportunity to frame a view that links the inside to the outside.
From the warmth of your interior — inspiration for a grander garden scheme becomes more apparent.
The simplicity of a lovely view offers a wonderful relaxing moment — a true break from a busy day
An arbor is helpful to frame the view and increase the drama to entering a garden.
A long axial walkway leads the visitor into a pergola covered dining area – trees flanking the walk represent the “walls” of the garden room.
A nicely proportioned home entrance is enhanced by an overhanging tree and well positioned planting beds.
A garden bench allows for a quiet meditative moment in a May blooming garden.
Early bulbs are much smaller and will do well planted about 3-4” deep. Top dressing with an autumn mulch keeps the ground warmer allowing for root development before the deep cold of winter sets in. This insulating mulch also protects the bulbs from quick freezes and thaws that often occur in late winter.
As the days become longer and the daytime temperatures gradually rise, the bulbs will naturally begin to emerge and start the wonderful process of sequential blooming. Since the early spring bulbs are low growing and devoid of a lot of foliage, the first flush of flowers magically appears making the early spring garden abundant in a sea of blooms–creating a breathtaking picture that can last for several days of even weeks. When one group of bulbs start to fade, another grouping takes center stage quickly filling in any vacancies in the garden.
After flowering, it is important to give them a feeding of organic fertilizer and allow the foliage to die back gradually. Later bloomers like tulips and alliums along with emerging perennials will eventually camouflage the waning bulbs. By creating a design that promotes a progression of bulbs, the garden will never be without something in bloom.
In late April and early May, tulips the grand-dames of the garden lend flirt and fancy in an abundant array of colors and shapes. Species tulips are tiny in size often blooming along with daffodils which makes them less likely to be eaten by deer. To deter rodents from eating the bulbs, use a rodent repellant or add cayenne pepper or garlic flakes to the planting hole.
Another trick is to spray bulbs (especially tulips) with a diluted solution of old fashioned liquid lysol and let the bulbs dry completely in the sun prior to planting, The offending critters are hindered by the smell and taste of this strong smelling cleaner. Another tip from a bulb importer is to plant them in the same hole as the allium. The strong onion odor of the allium helps to keep critters away as well.
The dynamic and vertical lines of flowering onions or Alliums continue the show into June- globe-like flower of the allium may be allowed to dry in the garden, which adds texture and interest to your perennial borders. There is a multitude of allium varieties in the market–from very low growing to impressive 4‘ varieties. Alliums add an elegance and dramatic verticality to the late May and early June garden Fragrant and dramatic lilies, “the wings of the garden” take flight in late June and July. You can find a multitude of different hybrids in dazzling colors and shapes in all of these species of bulbs.
To encourage your bulb garden to flourish, select a site that has well-drained soil. If the soil needs work, start by enriching the proposed area with good top soil or compost to a depth of about 6”. Bulbs do not like to be planted in area that is usually wet–so good drainage is essential when preparing your site for a bulb garden. Plant bulbs with the pointed side up adding a tablespoon or so of an organic fertilizer that contains rock phosphate, which will ensure proper root development.
It is especially important to plant the bulb to the proper depth which is about 3-4 times the bulb’s length. For example, a tulip which is about 2” long needs to be planted about 6-8” deep. The earlier bulbs are much smaller and will do well planted about 3-4” deep. Top dressing with an autumn mulch keeps the ground warmer allowing for root development before the deep cold of winter sets in. This insulating mulch also protects the bulbs from lifting when quick freezes and thaws occur in late winter. As the days become longer and the daytime temperatures get warmer, the bulbs will naturally begin to emerge and start the wonderful process of sequential blooming. When one group of bulbs start to fade, another grouping starts to take center stage and fills in any vacancies in the garden. Since the early spring bulbs are low growing and devoid of a lot of foliage, the flowers in full bloom appear as luscious masses of color–creating a breathtaking picture that can last for several days of even weeks.
After flowering, it is important to give your bulbs a feeding of organic fertilizer because this is the time they are storing food for next year’s blooms.
Always allow the foliage to gradually die back naturally. By late June most of the foliage has completely withered and can then be safely cut down. Later bloomers like tulips and alliums along with emerging perennials will eventually camouflage the waning bulbs.
By creating a design that promotes a progression of bulbs, the garden will never be without something in bloom. At present, bulb supplies are still plentiful and you can safely plant your bulb garden right up to Thanksgiving. A warm sunny afternoon in late October or early November is the perfect time to plant your spring garden–so don’t hesitate to get out there soon!
You’re never too young to learn how to plant bulbs for the family garden!
I never feel a perennial garden is complete without the addition of spring bulbs. The wonderful serendipitous quality of bulbs make the early spring garden truly come alive — a vivid reminder that we can bid adieu to the long cold and grey of winter.
Whether you are just a beginner or a more seasoned gardener nothing will feed your soul more than a fabulous display of spring bulbs. Planted en masse, the luscious colors, subtle fragrances and long blooming flowers creates a wonderful prelude for the unfolding spring season. A carefully selected collection of spring bulbs will provide a symphony of successive blooms that will enliven your garden with many months of amazing color and fragrance.
By incorporating a mix of early, middle and late blooming bulbs, you are ensured of a display that will span several months. The early bloomers of March and April are snowdrops, crocus, Iris reticulata, Scilla, Chionodoxa followed by daffodils and hyacinths. With careful planning now, the entire month of April can be a spectacular display of flowering bulbs in a multitude of forms and a rainbow of colors.
Early Spring Perennials always provides some instant unexpected color for your
Usually in early April, somewhere between the waning blooms of daffodils and before
the massive display of May flowers, early bloomers such as candytuft, phlox subulata,
forget-me-nots and leopardsbane fill a nice spot in the garden. Subtle, petite and
unobtrusive, they can still make a commanding presence in soft spring-like tones
covering the otherwise barren ground with unexpected color. Even though they tend to
be fleeting, these delicate beauties deserve a special place in your perennial garden.
They are an exceptional addition to spring bulbs as the color complement and reinforce
Of special significance are the spring ephemerals such as Virginia bluebells, trillium,
mayapple, trout lily and bloodroot. They create little niches in the garden once the soil
start to warm, emerging from dormancy and flooding the garden with soft pastel colors.
Growing quickly, they burst almost overnight into flower, providing pollen and nectar for
an abundance of early insects such as bee, flies, and early bumblebees. After flowering
these plants quickly fade and form seed before gradually go dormant. Once dormant, it
is important to mark where they are in the garden and protect their roots from damage
during the busy gardening months of the summer.
With little encouragement, these early spring stalwarts will return and multiply each year
during a time when little else is blooming. They are the perfect companion to native
ferns and hostas.
Since the winter has been so mild we are now seeing lots of early blooming shrubs along with all the tiny early spring bulbs emerging through sodden soil and snow. As the days lengthen, the sun warms the soil allowing buds to swell and unfurl opening several weeks earlier this year. These shrubs along with spring bulbs are tenacious and resilient even when night temperatures suddenly drop and the days can be grey and windy. These shrubs and bulbs can be unobtrusive in a lovely range of pastel colors with forms that grace our early spring landscape in their subtleness and unexpected blooms.
As an added bonus, these early bloomers will continue to flower for several weeks as the cooler temperatures will evolve into warmer days. We can expect several more weeks of blooms with these unique plants—all the more reason to plan adding some of these delightful plants for your late winter/early spring garden next year.