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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Consultation and coaching for do-it-yourselfers is provided. Occasional emailed questions are welcome and answered free of charge. Oui, je parle francais.

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Flowerbeds that Sing in the Spring. 

My walkway garden in unusually cold weather.Did you plant enough spring flowering bulbs? Do you suppose that there was room in the beds for more, even though there was no room in your budget to buy them? I deal with the issue of cost by adding more spring-flowering bulbs to the beds every autumn, according to the amount of disposable gardening funds remaining.

On a warm day, it looked like this.For that reason, my display of spring flowering bulbs tends to be far more relaxed and unplanned than are my perennial plant compositions. I don’t mind the resulting haphazard design because it doesn’t take much to bring a smile to my face, or that of my wife’s, when the bulbs begin to bloom. All we do is step outdoors to take in the morning paper, and we are smitten.

After six months of dreary, white winter, we care more about the presence of color in our lives than we do about design. The captioned image above and the close-up below represent the early flowering display; an assortment of daffodils, narcissus, hyacinths, and early species tulips of varying heights and colors, planted over a span of 5 years. A different color story, composed with Darwin hybrid tulips, will bloom later.

Frigid temperature did not allow the bulbs to put on a show for their closeup.Through the eyes of a garden colorist, what is missing from the above composition is a row of dark blue hyacinths running the length of the bed, just behind the first row of rocks. That shade of blue, hardly visible in the bottom center of this second photo, will inject vibrancy to the color composition. I will attend to that matter that at the end of the upcoming gardening season.

A better showing when the weather turned warm.In late summer, as gardening activities starts to wind down, buying bulbs for the next spring seems like an expensive exercise. Yet, when those bulbs do flower, and the garden breaks out into song, regardless of how many I planted, the experience of watching spring flowering bulbs grow is so enjoyable, that I cannot remember why I held back and planted so few.

Planning the spring garden usually begins in July, when I study the contents of the mail order catalogs, write down the names of the bulbs that interest me, and take that list with me when I drive to a full-service nursery, several miles away from home. Yes, it is time consuming; I devote an entire morning to the trip.

The original intention was to do a price and selection comparison between nursery and mail order. The results were surprising. The nursery offered the identical in-depth assortment that I found in the catalogs, their prices were lower, no shipping charges to be added, and I was able to purchase the exact number of bulbs I wanted without having to deal with catalog pre-packs, that contained more or too little of what I needed.

The photo of the two yellow daffodils, whose name I did not record, nor do I remember, represents the largest bulb, in that family, that I could find at the nursery; and it blooms majestically. It is a reminder for me to stay away from mail order “value packs”.

A few years ago, I purchased one such “deal” from a respected mail order house. I had hoped that a large quantity of fifty assorted daffodil bulbs would fill up swaths of empty spaces in early spring flowerbeds. I was wrong! Fifteen percent of the bulbs arrived rotted, twenty percent never bloomed and those that did flower have been smaller by comparison to the ones that I select myself at the nursery.

However, not everyone lives in reasonable proximity to a full service nursery. For some, the inventory and pricing found at a big box store will be sufficient. For others, mail order is the only convenient source to purchase plant material, irrespective of price or value. Why, even I purchased my very first plants by post. For many years, the catalog served a text book for my introduction to gardening.

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Reader Comments (3)

Oh, Allan! After being repeatedly discouraged by rodent action on my tulips, I had thrown the bulb baby out with the squirrelly bathwater by not planting any bulbs at all!!! Yes, that statement deserved every one of those three exclamation points. Last year, I got wise again, and planted 300 bulbs. This spring I can happily say that the answer to your leading question is: You can never plant too many spring bulbs!!! (And those bangers are deserved, too.) I'm back on the bulb bandwagon. Yours look beautiful. Enjoy them.

Your spring blooms look beautiful Alan. Spring colors always looks so good after all of those gray days. Evey spring I wish I had planted more bulbs.

May 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLona

I order my bulbs from Brent and Becky's Bulbs in Virginia. It is the only bulb source I recommend to my customers. I don't know if they ship to Canada though.

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