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Spring is Here

Those of us who live on the prairies anxiously await the arrival of Spring after the long winter months. Spring is probably the most exciting time for gardeners. We eagerly await the appearance of our plants and are optimistic that this will be the year our gardens will turn out as we have envisioned. The weather is warm without being too hot, rain waters our gardens gently, destructive hail and thunderstorms exist only as figments of our imaginations, the light is soft and we are able to shed the multiple layers of winter clothes to rejoice in the prelude to summer. Even though this winter has been relatively mild this does nothing to dampen our excitement in waiting for the appearance of those first green shoots, leaves and bulbs. All winter we have been waiting for the fruits of our Fall bulb planting labors to be fulfilled but so often we find the results less than satisfying. Most of us can’t afford or don’t have the space to plant several hundred bulbs each year but we still envision a display similar to the solid mass of color seen at public gardens such as the Dorothy Harvey Gardens. Consequently, our relatively few bulbs seem lackluster and without pizzazz. A few tricks can help give our Spring gardens real excitement and be as full of color and texture as public garden displays are.

Fall is the time to plant out bulbs for Spring but it is in the Spring and Summer months that we should be evaluating our gardens to determine how to add more punch to our displays. The best way to do this is to plant bulbs with Spring blooming perennials that will compliment and bloom with each other. Many of the smaller bulbs do very well when planted to emerge through ground cover plants. For example, Iris reticulata, Pushkinia and snowdrops do very well growing through creeping thymes, Aubretia, early blooming Phlox, Sedums and Allysum. Color schemes can be coordinated between bulbs and perennials for a truly stunning display with the added bonus that when the bulb foliage dies down the perennials remain as a foil for later blooming perennials and annuals. Bulbs and early perennials work particularly well under Spring flowering trees and shrubs. Blossom time can be coordinated with bulbs such as tulips and daffodils, and perennials such as Lungworts, Bleeding Hearts, Bergenias, and dwarf iris. The perennials enjoy the early Spring sun before the tree canopy becomes too dense and then benefit from the shade cast by the tree in the hottest parts of the summer.

Another way to give your garden that much needed color boost is to coordinate emerging foliage with complimentary colored bulbs and early flowering perennials. Imagine the newly emerging maroon leaves of Ligularia coupled with shocking pink Phlox subulata, black (Queen of the Night) and white tulips. While each of these alone is attractive combined they become truly sublime.

So when you are perusing your garden over the next several weeks or are planning a new garden take notes on how to create drama and excitement for your own private Springtime serenade.