A gardener’s work is never done. As many of us spend these cooler fall days raking leaves and cleaning out our flower beds, it’s important to remember that now is the time to plant for spring. Just imagine how nice it will be to watch colorful blooms come to life in your garden after the snow melts. Your future self (the one who will be doing cartwheels come spring) will thank you.
Perennials, trees, and shrubs are all on the table for planting in the fall. The conditions are perfect, with the soil still warm and the air a bit cooler. They establish quickly when planted this time of year because the environment is much less stressful for them. In fact, spring-blooming bulbs absolutely need time in the cold ground over the winter so they can eventually flower.
When To Plant?
Timing is everything, though. A good tip I recently read is to consider the weather, not your calendar when planting springtime bulbs. When nighttime temperatures hit anywhere between 40°F-50°F (4°C-10°C), grab your trowels. This is very important; if you plant your bulbs in warm soil and end up having a warm fall, you could see some early sprouting. Not good.
What To Plant?
What you’re looking for is flowers, shrubs, and trees that will bloom April through June. It’s most impressive if you can find various plants that flower at different times throughout the spring. Remember, these blooms come and go rather quickly; it’s nice to keep a splash of color throughout the garden at all times.
Gardening Complete: How To Best Grow Vegetables, Flowers, and Other Outdoor Plants has an excellent four-season plant guide. It takes all of the guesswork out of making your garden beds interesting year-round. Newbie or a seasoned gardener, this book will be your constant companion.
When it comes to spring-blooming bulbs, the guide recommends flowers like tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. Snowdrops, crocuses, winter aconite, rock garden irises, and Siberian squill are also great choices. Spanish bluebells and alliums will be the last to show their color before the summer heat moves in.
If planted in the fall, shrubs like witch hazel and forsythia will bloom for you in the late winter. My go-to gardening guide recommends azaleas, rhododendrons, and viburnums for a show in May, and make June beautiful with Virginia sweetspire and mophead hydrangeas.
Anyone who knows me knows I love perennials. A lot. Call me a lazy gardener if you must; I just love ‘em. The beauty about these babies is you plant them now, and then watch them get bigger and better year after year. Salvias, false forget-me-nots, foamflowers, bleeding hearts, irises, sweet woodruff, barrenwort, and veronica are all suggestions in the four-season plant guide.
Native perennials, such as columbine, Virginia bluebells, trout lilies, and creeping phlox have fairly short bloom times, but my book recommends choosing varieties that flower before passing the torch on to the next.
How To Plant?
Gardens can look a little barren in the spring, so it’s a good idea to plant your selections in clusters, rather than straight lines. Keep the plant’s mature size in mind when it comes to spacing. And because the blooming time is short for many of the varieties, it’s a good idea to have annuals ready to put into the ground to fill any gaps. Pots filled with nice pops of color also do very well when looking for something to revive a dull-looking bed.
Don’t you just love thinking ahead?