A variety of spring-blooming bulbs add up to a symphony of color in a roadside bed at Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. (Nicole Phillips)

A variety of spring-blooming bulbs add up to a symphony of color in a roadside bed at Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. (Nicole Phillips)

Plant bulbs in the fall to have flowers pop up in the spring

Now is the perfect time to add tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus and alliums to your garden.

Now that we have had a few soaking rains, some of you might think that the gardening season is over.

But I am here to inform you that there are at least two more gardening months to look forward to and, if it turns out to be a mild winter, several nice days scattered throughout the winter for us to connect with our yards.

While you may be able to roll up the hoses, there will be several more opportunities to mow the lawn — especially if you did your homework and fertilized it — and lots of raking, pruning and weeding. And don’t forget the planting, because as you all should remember, one of my mantras is: “You can plant year-round in the Northwest”.

At the top of my planting list this time of year is spring-blooming bulbs.

Every year around October, we receive our fall shipment of bulbs. You know, those funny looking, dirty brown things that come in bags decorated with beautiful pictures of promises to come the following spring? And, every year, I am amazed at how many gardeners don’t get around to planting these little gems.

What could be easier than digging a few holes and dropping in a handful of bulbs, covering them up and forgetting about the whole affair until the following spring, when they magically emerge out of the soil and grace us with their beauty? Nothing could be easier.

There is no watering-in, no fertilizing (although some food always helps), no staking and no soil amending. Just dig a small hole and plunk them in. If you want to really make it easy, purchase a soil auger to do the digging. With the aid of a cordless drill, you will be done in a heartbeat.

The best time to plant bulbs is September through November. Nurseries have their best selection this month, and then it goes downhill from there. Tulips and daffodils are the main players, but you can also choose among hyacinths, probably the most fragrant spring-blooming bulb; crocus, little harbingers of spring; alliums, those giant blue globes that don’t bloom until June.

There are several other minor bulbs that, all together, add up to the symphony of color that bulbs can bring to your garden in spring. It is so easy to plant bulbs that it is a wonder a number of gardeners fail to do it this time of year.

Bulbs should be planted in drifts — meaning clumping several together to form a small mass of color. Instead of digging one hole per bulb, you dig a larger hole that will accommodate a handful (maybe six to 10). Never, ever line them up in rows like little soldiers, unless you work at Disneyland. Many bulbs will naturalize themselves over time, so a loose clump makes more sense and will feel more realistic.

While more and more gardeners are ordering online, when it comes to bulbs, nothing beats being able to actually see and touch the real thing — and you can only do that at your local garden center. Plus, the grades of bulbs at the nursery are usually larger than those purchased through mail-order catalogs.

Now that the rains have softened up the soils, it is prime time to plunk some bulbs into your garden beds. You can even put bulbs in your containers as you switch out the top plants for fall beauties.

A short trip to the nursery and a few hours of planting, at most, will bring you weeks of joy starting late winter and into spring. Nothing could be easier! Stay safe and keep on gardening.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at sunnysidenursery@msn.com.

Two free classes

Sunnyside Nursery’s free gardening classes are back — but they’re online for now. A class on fall foilage and winter wonders is scheduled for 10 a.m. Oct. 10, followed by a class on growing spring-blooming bulbs 11 a.m. Oct. 11 via Zoom. With registration, you’ll receive a Zoom link to attend the online class. For more information or to sign up, visit www.sunnysidenursery.net/classes.

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