It is time to think about spring bulbs.
Tulips, daffodils, grape hynthins, scillia and allium should be planted early in the fall.
The earlier they are planted the more time they have to put down roots and become established before the ground freezes.
Bulbs can be purchased through local stores or through catalogue and Internet sales.
Each establishment has advantages and disadvantages. Look for the largest bulbs of that variety. The bulbs should be firm without any cuts or mould.
Purchasing locally means that the bulbs can also be planted now.
Orders form other places often do not get shipped out until the third week of September.
In years where winter comes early the bulbs do not survive as they have not had time to become established before the ground freezes.
Large bulb houses have the opportunity to purchase unique bulbs.
Smaller establishments often have less selection.
Differentiating between the different types and varieties of bulbs can be a challenge.
Tulips have been hybridized for hundreds of years and have the varieties to prove it. Make choices by colours, height, shape of blossom and time of bloom. Hybrid tulips are heavy feeders which makes it difficult for a homeowner to provide the environment where the bulbs will thrive and expand. Tulips usually need to be replaced every few years.
Mini botanical tulips or botanical tulips are an exception. The plants are low growing, up to seven inches (18 cm) in height with smaller flowers than the hybrids.
Mass plant these bulbs and they put on a spectacular early spring show; one that will continue and expand each year.
Daffodils or narcissi bulbs need to be planted early in the fall as they put down roots before the ground freezes. The original plants are bright yellow with large trumpets. They too have been hybridized over many years.
Now they are available in shades of yellow, white, pink, orange and white. The trumpets or cups also come in different shapes and sizes.
Once established daffodils multiply and put on a larger show each spring. All parts of the daffodil are poisonous making it a good plant in areas that have problems with deer, moose or squirrels.
Crocuses are available in two varieties and many colours. The snow crocuses have smaller flowers but bloom as soon as the snow has left that patch of ground.
Large flowering crocuses start blooming a few weeks later than snow crocuses. As their name implies their flowers are large, and when planted in bunches put on a nice show in the spring.
Grape hyacinths or muscari are a must in any garden. Originally they formed blue or purple clumps in the garden. Now they are available in quite a number of shades of blue, white, bi-colour and pink. These bulbs bloom in June and put out leaves in the fall. The older varieties multiply rapidly and can be split regularly.
Fritillaria meleagris are large down turning bells that appear in May.
They have very fine stems but are strong enough to hold up the exquisite flower. The white and purple varieties thrive in my garden near Rocky Mountain House.
Allium bulb have gained popularity in the last few years. Flowering times, colours and size of flowers is dependent on the variety planted.
Many of the flowers seed leading to mass plantings.
Scillia or squill is one of the first bulbs to bloom announcing the arrival of spring. The small blue flowers last for a few weeks and multiply quickly.
Make time and room each fall to plant spring flowering bulbs. They are a wonderful sight after a cold, dull winter.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist and educator living in RockyMountain House. You can contact her at email@example.com