After the long, gray days of winter, life and color return to the garden each spring as the first green shoots of flowering bulbs push through the earth. Soon the spring garden will be in full bloom: the golden-trumpeted Daffodil (Narcissus) dancing in the breeze, cheerful Tulip (Tulipa) cups adding splotches of bright color, elegant Iris regally unfurling and the jasmine scent of fragrant Hyacinth (Hyacinthus) perfuming the air. But the beauty of the spring garden depends on fall planning and planting.
Spring bulbs can be planted from early September through frost. In choosing a location for planting bulbs, remember that the warmth of the sun triggers bulbs to begin their growth cycle. After flowering, leaves need sunlight to feed the bulb for next year’s blossoming. Bulbs do best along south-facing foundation walls. Heat retained by the foundation helps warm the soil, producing the first flowerings of spring. Bulbs planted in north-facing and outlying beds will flower slightly latedaffr.
Spring bulbs are most effective planted in odd numbered groups of five or more near entrances or where they can be viewed from a window. Mass plantings of a single color create the most dramatic displays, but consider planting a gradation of tones in the same hue in front of spring-flowering shrubs. Naturalized under trees, spring bulbs add an element of delight to garden landscapes.
Plant spring bulbs in well-drained flower beds enriched with organic matter, compost or humus to a depth of 12 inches. As you prepare the beds, work in bone meal or plant fertilizer with a 5-10-5 or 10-10-10 formulation according to package directions. Bulbs should be planted two and a half times deeper than their diameter. For example, a two-inch diameter tulip bulb should be planted with its root base at a depth of 5 inches. After flowering, allow leaves to die back naturally to feed the bulb for next spring’s flowering.