by Suzanne Seryck, Master Gardener
October and November is a great time to plant spring bulbs – these are the bulbs that will extend the colour in your garden, often blooming when there is still snow on the ground. These bulbs – the most well-known being daffodils and tulips – bloom from March or April until late spring. They are incredibly low maintenance, you plant them once and then forget about them, with the exception of daffodils which often need dividing every 5 years or so. However the reward outweighs the hardship of dividing them, a clump of 5 can easily multiply to 40 or 50.
Daffodils and tulips are, by far, the most recognized spring bulbs, coming in many different colours, sizes and bloom times. However if you look beyond, you start to notice the many other different spring bulbs available.
I live in Lindsay and like many cities, if you drive around in the spring, you will notice the many blue lawns. These are actually either glory of the snow (Chionodoxa spp.), or siberian squill (Scilla), tiny blue bulbs that naturalize in both your lawn and your flower beds. The difference between the two depends on the direction that the flower head faces, but either are perfect in the lawn. As well as blue they also come in lavender, pink or white.
Snowdrops (Galanthus), which are among the earliest blooming spring bulbs will also naturalize in your lawn or flower beds, however in my garden, they are slower to multiply. They can be either single or double with a small white or snow colored flower.
I plant a lot of grape hyacinth or muscari in my garden, however I find them too large for my lawn and instead plant them in the perennial beds. They are also great under shrubs, trees or hedges. They come in blue, violet, pink and white and multiply easily, quickly spreading to form large clumps. Blue muscari works very well when paired with daffodils and can be planted in the same hole. Bulbs are typically planted at a depth determined by the size of the bulbs, allowing you to layer the muscari on top of the daffodils.
Crocuses whilst beautiful in their many different colours seem to be especially appetizing to squirrels. I planted orange crocuses two years ago and out of the twenty crocuses I planted, I may have seen one actually bloom, I was left with either holes where the bulbs used to be, or they would be nipped off when they were about 1 inch tall. I still plant them, but I make sure to plant a daffodil in the same hole, squirrels do not like the smell of daffodils and tend to stay away.
Other spring bulbs I have planted in my gardens include anemone, oxalis adenophylla, which is a very pretty pink colour, hyacinths, winter aconites, a very cheery shade of buttercup yellow, iris hollandica and of course English bluebells. I have to admit I do have a lot of daffodils and tulips in my garden from my early gardening days, but I am now starting to look beyond and plant the many different spring bulbs now available.Hint: If you’re looking for ideas for something different check out this GardenMaking magazine article with ideas for 25 unique bulbs for your garden.