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abor Day has come and gone and now we're easing into fall, harvesting regularly from the vegetable garden, and watching as Torch Tithonia's red-orange blossoms draw butterflies like moths to a flame. As spent crops get pulled and composted, fall-planting opportunities open up: cover crops like Winter Rye and Clover can be sown, and soon it will be time for planting garlic, shallots, and flowering bulbs. While it might seem early to be thinking of next year's garden–too future-focused to enjoy the present–a gardener's foresight is what sets the stage for blissful moments of wonder and awe. To that end, what better way to guarantee ourselves some cheer than planting flowers for springtime?  Read on for some ideas on how, when, and what to plant for non-stop color come spring.

How to plant:

Always plant bulbs into well-draining soil. Heavy clay soils often lead to rot.    Pay close attention to spacing and depth requirements. In general, if you're growing for cut flowers or for maximum color-blocking effect in the spring garden, planting closer is better. If you're aiming for a naturalized clump-here-clump-there effect, space more widely in anticipation of the flowers filling out over the years.   

Don't worry too much about fertility. average garden soil can lead to great flowers. If you're spacing very tightly and harvesting for flowers year after year, you'll want to apply a bit of compost and/or mulch, but other than that, amendments are rarely required unless you plant in exhausted soil. And if you do choose to fertilize, you can wait until the spring, since the dormant bulbs won't need it over the winter.

When to plant:

The ideal planting time is when nighttime temperatures are around 40 or 50 degrees, or about six weeks before the ground freezes.

For us here in the Northeast, plant in October for maximum success. Early- to mid-November is also okay. Most spring bulbs need a chilly period to bloom, so don't worry too much about getting them in the ground early or before your first frosts; however, after the ground has frozen, it can be difficult to get the bulbs established well enough to stay rooted during freeze-thaw cycles during winter.

To fill your spring and early summer with nonstop color, plant a variety of bulbs that have different bloom times.

What to Plant

Late Winter / Early Spring:

Our first-to-bloom bulb varieties may be diminutive, but they fill the heart as the ice and snow melts. Low-growing Snowdrops are often the very first to emerge, with Crocuses right on their heels. Winter Aconite's sunny yellow flowers and adorable green collars appear in late winter, and can be seen blooming in the snow.

Other early spring blooms include bubblegum pink Corydalis, white and blue-violet Hyacinthoides, and the uncommonly lovely Allium 'Honey Sicilian Lily'. Many of these varieties will naturalize quite readily, including Fritillaria uva-vulpis, which forms the most darling maroon-and-gold bells.


Mid-Spring:

Mid-Spring is when thing really take off, with a fireworks display of showstoppers like Tulips and  Narcissus, as well as Muscari, Wild Hyacinth, Trout Lily, and Anemone.

Less common but just as exquisite this time of year, you'll find pale pink Alpine Squill, bright sprays of blue Chionodoxa, and tall, burgundy-black spires of Fritillaria persica.

One of the most adaptable and easy-to-grow varieties for mid-spring bloom is deep purple Ipheion uniflorum 'Rolf Fiedler.'


Late Spring / Early Summer:

For late spring to early summer color, look to Dutch Irises, Alliums, and Asiatic Lilies. With their elegant, architectural blossoms and streamlined foliage Dutch Irises look right at home in almost any garden. Alliums bloom as bright puffballs of color, and the larger globe style Alliums dry nicely too, adding a sculptural effect to the landscape. The large, long-lasting blooms of Asiatic Lilies pair well with withe wildflowers and other perennials.

The most skillful gardeners consider how their landscape plantings will look throughout the full growing season. With bloom time taken into consideration, your garden will have color all through spring and into early summer–and, before you know it, you'll find yourself living in the moment–just as you'd planned.

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