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Bulbs are an Autumn Ritual

Bob Gutowski
Chionodoxa lucilae, Glory of the Snow

This fall Americans will plant more than a billion bulbs.  According to research, the act of bulb planting is actually a ritual.  By planting bulbs, people are not only anticipating that spring will come, they are ensuring that it will.

Americans will plant more bulbs than any other country.  Easy to grow bulbs are very American.  They are sort of nature’s fast food.  It comes prepackaged with a baby flower inside and ready to grow. 

Chionodoxa - Glory of the Snow - blooms for a couple weeks in April.  The bright blue, star shaped flowers poke up four or six inches above the mulch or snow.  Chionodoxa likes soil with a lot of organic matter and a sunny spot in the garden.  Plant Glory of the Snow in groups of ten or more for a showy display.

Another of the earliest blooming bulbs is a type of Scilla called Squill or Bluebell.  Scillas grow four or six inches tall.  Depending on the winter, they will bloom from February to April.  Scillas grow in about any soil and in partially shaded gardens.  The clusters of violet to pink flowers are showiest when grouped ten or more of one color splashed together. 

Crocus bloom in almost every color and they grow in any organically enriched soil.  Crocus catches your eye when the bulbs are planted in groups of a dozen or more.  If you’re mixing colors use at least a half a dozen bulbs of one color for the best effect.  Crocus is a real treat planted along borders with hardy pansies. 


Dwarf Iris is great for borders or rock gardens.  Because Dwarf Iris have bigger blooms, it’s showy planted out in the garden too.  The March flowers stand six or eight inches above the soil.  Dwarf Iris grows in full sun to partial shade.

Snowdrops have nodding white flowers that can pop up as early as February.  Snowdrops like full sun but will grow in some shade.  They naturalize into showy groups or colonies.

Autumn is the season to plant garlic.  Break individual cloves from the bulb.  Plant the root ends an inch and a half deep in garden soil.  Garlic will send out roots before the soil freezes.  Try different types of garlic for a flavorful harvest next summer. 

The leaves that drop this autumn will renew the soil for next spring’s growth.  To celebrate autumn renewal, plant some of the smaller spring flowering bulbs.  They bloom earlier.  They’re a sign a new season is really coming.

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