Experienced gardeners know that now is the time to assess the failures and successes of the summer garden. Now, while mistakes are fresh in your mind – or still visible in the garden – is the time to plant for spring.
The first step is to take stock. Be generous to yourself. What worked? What did you enjoy? What flowers, plants, scents, foliage or design drew you back again and again?
What colours or combinations made you feel squeamish? Did you find yourself blaming that arrangement on your spouse? The family pet? Martha Stewart?
Besides colour and design, were there times when the garden seemed bare? Did your garden hit the summer doldrums when it might have been at its peak?
In autumn, the slate can be wiped clean. You can begin now for next spring, and get a jump on a better garden.
Autumn is prime time. At WildThings we learned this when we were faced one November with a newly tilled field and over 1,000 perennials to plant. We finished the job just as the snow fell. Planting conditions had been less than optimal. Soil in the field is poor, rocky clay, with very little humus. There was no time to amend it.
Our planting methods were downright abusive. John would dig a hole and Nina would follow behind, drop in a plant, kick rock and soil over the root, step on it and move on to the next plant.
After a hard winter, with deep freezes, lots of snow, and that typical January thaw so fatal to many perennials, we discovered that plant survival was close to 100 per cent.
Since then, we’ve become religious about fall planting.
The soil is warm and moist, mistakes are fresh in your memory, and gardeners have more time than during the hectic spring season. Plant availability is at its peak. New stock, which nurseries have planted this year, is becoming available – often at lower prices than it will be next spring after the nursery has over wintered it. Mature stock has been growing all summer, resulting in bigger, fuller plants for the same price.
Conditions are prime for planting. Roots continue to grow, though very slowly, under the blanket of snow.
Fall is also the perfect time to plan and plant your bulbs. Plant now to reap the rewards next spring.
A garden without spring bulbs is not complete – especially in our climate where winters are hard and long and gardens often appear naked until the perennials and annuals take charge.
Quite often, the worst spring conditions produce the best bulb show. Tulips, daffodils and so many of the other hardy bulbs, such as Fritillarias (snake’s head), Alliums (flowering onions) and Camassia (wild hyacinth), flourish when the going gets tough.
Remember the infamous May 24th weekend this year? We huddled in the greenhouse, snivelling together over the unseasonable snow. And the cold! And the sleet! And the hail! While outside, the bulb show was dramatic and intense. Colours were more vivid. Stems more erect. Blooms were larger and seemed to last forever. Nina’s personal favourite, the Silverstream tulip, with its icy cool variegated foliage, and blooms in soft shades of apricot and peach and pink, flowered for well over a month.
Of course, when springs are hot and dry, the bulbs poke out of the ground, flash their gaudy colours and do a quick disappearing act. But they are perennials, and with proper care, they will return year after year.
On September 21, at 1 p.m., you are welcome to attend a free seminar: “Great Expectations: Planting The Spring Bulb Garden” at WildThings. Come see what’s new. Get tips on choosing quality bulbs, interplanting with perennials, naturalizing and indoor forcing.
From rare and unusual exotics, to all-time favourites, the Canadian-garden-hardy bulb selection has never been better. Now is the time to plant the bulbs you raved about in our spring gardens for your own garden. Our bulbs begin arriving the first week of September.