Many of you are shopping for flower bulbs, so tempting are the lovely pictures of the tulips and daffodils on store shelves.
That is why it is so easy to go overboard and devote all of your garden space to just one or two things, for example the outstanding red Oxford tulips and yellow Carlton daffodils.
One cannot leave those beauties behind, but it is good to allow room for some other things. These other things may include something you have never grown or seen before or may bloom early or late in the season. By thinking about these things, gardeners expand their palette of bloom and stretch the season at the same time.
Stretching the season should be one of your goals, as it makes gardening even more of a pleasure. It is the most fun to walk out of the house on a cold January day and find snowdrops glistening by the grass, weeks before tulips and daffodils will be at their peak.
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And after the tulips and daffodils wind up their show, what could be nicer than a lovely show of Dutch irises?
The nice thing about these early and late bulbs is that they tend to be smaller, take up less space and cost less. They are well suited for flowerbeds, especially toward the front edge, and containers.
Among the earliest, my favorites are snowdrops, which are quite short and bloom very early, and both the winter crocuses and the Dutch hybrid crocuses. The winter crocuses tend to produce flowers in bunches of two or three small blooms and lean toward softer colors of white, pink and lavender. They mostly bloom in February. The Dutch hybrid crocuses bloom a bit later, in late February or early March, with larger, single blooms, often in glowing tones of bright yellow or rich purple. This is a sight that will surely raise your spirits on a gloomy day in late winter.
All of these are well suited for containers that can sit outdoors on patio, deck or steps through the winter. It is nice to have them visible as you come and go. I particularly like snowdrops planted under the canopy of a small tree. They don’t get very tall, just a few inches, so don’t drown them in bark or pine needle mulch.
Crocuses are also quite short, but show up well under trees and along the edges of flowerbeds or shrub borders.
At the other end of the spring bulb season are the marvelous Dutch irises. This is an iris that grows from a small bulb, comes in many beautiful colors and blooms in late spring,
Because these snowdrops, crocuses and irises are small bulbs, they don’t require heavy digging and can be planted quite close together. The key is to plant them in sufficient numbers to make a good splash and gain notice. Start with at least a dozen. The little tags will give good directions on depth of planting and spacing.
Q. I have irises that belonged to my mother-in-law many years ago. We are moving and I would like to know if I can dig them up in mid-October, let them dry for the winter and plant them in their new home in the later spring.
A. I would not leave heirloom plants like that behind when you move. The rhizomes may be OK stored in a cardboard box through the winter in a cool but frost-free place. It would be better, if possible, to replant them temporarily in soil in pots for the winter. These are valuable plants that are worth whatever effort it takes to keep them in good condition for replanting at their new home.