By Cheryl Harrison, Master Gardener
Nothing compares to walking through a garden in spring with the heady scent of hyacinths wafting through the air! Hyacinths not only have an incredible fragrance but they also have beautiful blooms and glossy green strap-like leaves. Their wonderfully scented flowers provide early nectar for pollinators. They bloom in spring (mid-March – early May) and their flowers come in a rainbow of colours. Another great thing about hyacinths, they are deer and rabbit resistant. For more, check here Hyacinth.
We are all familiar with tulips but did you know that there are now so many varieties that you may plant a tulip garden that begins blooming in early spring and may continue into June depending on the planting location and variety. Tulips too come in a multitude of colours and shapes … some are also fragrant. Unfortunately, squirrels and chipmunks appear to love the taste of tulip bulbs so try covering them with chicken wire, or try sprinkling the planting site with bone meal or chicken manure, to keep the little critters away. For more, check here Tulips.
Daffodils, also known by the fancier name narcissus, are long lived often continuing to appear each spring at old homesteads well after the original inhabitants have moved on. They too come in many varieties with different flower shapes and colours including yellow, white, red, orange, green or pink. Daffodils will grow in sun or shade and naturalize amazingly well. Also good to know that daffodils are not of interest to squirrels or chipmunks and, when planted interspersed among other more susceptible bulbs, may help to keep rodents away. For more, check here Daffodils.
The diminutive Muscari, or grape hyacinth, are not a variety of hyacinth although they are in the same family. Muscari also readily naturalize. Because of their small size, plant lots for the best spring show. For more, check here Muscari.
Snowdrops are another diminutive plant that will be the first bulb to bloom in your garden perhaps even through the snow as their name suggests. For more, check here Snowdrops.
Alliums bloom late spring to early summer so a bit later than many of the bulbs already discussed. Their unusual flowers can be quite striking as their globe shapes nod in the breeze. Don’t be surprised if you purchase an allium to find that they are usually sold singly and may be more expensive than many other bulbs. For more, check here Alliums.
Most spring flowering bulbs are planted in the fall (September or October) before the ground freezes.
Purchase the largest, best quality bulbs that you can find. Large bulbs have lots of food energy for the emerging plant which will result in strong stems and large flowers. Avoid bulbs that appear to be soft, damaged or discoloured. Check on the product package to make sure that you have chosen bulbs that will grow in your zone. If you don’t know your gardening zone, find it here Canadian Gardening Zones
Plant bulbs in full sun (6-8 hours/day) to produce the largest blooms and strong straight stems. However, many will flower in light shade … blooms may not be as large and stems may not be as strong.
Follow the package directions for planting your bulbs.
Bulbs need time after blooming to store energy for the next year. To remove the dead leaves, either snip them off at the base, or twist the leaves while pulling gently.
Some bulbs will not flower as robustly the second year eg. hyacinths. Some gardeners treat these as annuals, removing the bulbs after flowering and planting fresh bulbs each fall. Note that many bulbs are toxic so store them appropriately so that your pets or little people are not able to access them.
Plant them now! A spring garden with a mixture of different bulbs looks lovely! Plant bulbs along a path or close to your home’s entrance to be able to enjoy their dramatic scent. They will also add a burst of colour to your perennial garden before other early flowers are up. A mass planting of spring flowering bulbs will make a bold statement in your garden!