Share This Page

Put a little thought into spring garden

| Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, 9:00 p.m.
Scilla (otherwise known as Siberian squill) is one of the easiest bulbs to plant and grow. Credit: Jessica Walliser

Right now, you probably aren't thinking about the spring. Like every other gardener in Western Pennsylvania, you're likely to be up to your neck in leaves and spent tomato plants and end-of-the-season weeds. But, putting a little thought into next year's garden right now can lead to a beautiful spring.

From early September until Thanksgiving, it is the perfect time to plant spring-blooming bulbs. Most of us are familiar with the ubiquitous daffodil and tulip, but I'd like to tell you about a few of my favorite, less-than-familiar spring blooming bulbs. They, too, are best planted now and are capable of providing your garden with a splash of color come spring.

Most are available at local nurseries and many mail-order bulb companies. My favorite mail-order sources are Brent and Becky's Bulbs in Gloucester, Va. (www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com) and Old House Gardens in Ann Arbor, Mich. (www.oldhousegardens.com).

Sometimes, it's the littlest garden treasures that deserves the most attention. Checkered fritillaria ( Fritillaria meleagris) have a lovely nodding, bell-shaped flower covered with a checkerboard pattern — a rare find in the flower world. This diminutive bulb blooms in shades of pink, purple, and white and deserves a spot outside your back door, where you're most likely to spy its flowers come late April. Plant the bulbs now for a tiny spring show that everyone is sure to notice.

Set your sights on March by planting a delightful little bulb called scilla (otherwise known as Siberian squill). One of the easiest bulbs to plant and grow, scilla naturalizes quite readily and returns reliably year after year. With indigo-blue flowers and a stature of a mere 6 inches, this spring beauty is also deer and rodent proof — making it a perfect garden companion.

Puschkinia — commonly called striped squill — is another small treasure. It bears tiny, white bell-shaped flowers with a clear blue stripe on each petal. This is one of my favorite bulbs to plant in a patch of groundcover or in a woodland garden. It readily naturalizes and is resistant to rodents and deer.

Unlike their close cousin the onion, beautiful ornamental alliums are grown for their good looks, not their sharp flavor. The bulbs and foliage of these varieties do smell and taste onion-y just like their edible cousins, making them deer and rodent resistant. They are striking and stay in bloom for several weeks late each spring. Flower colors include white, yellow, lavender, pink, purple and fuchsia. With flower stalks reaching anywhere from a few inches to 3 feet tall and flower clusters sized between a marble and a volleyball, there is an ornamental allium suitable to any garden size and style. Here are some of my favorites:

‘Globemaster': Hundreds of light-purple star-shaped flowers clustered into a softball-sized flower perched atop a 3-foot-tall stalk.

‘Ambassador': Deep purple, tightly formed flowers grow 4 inches across and stand 2 to 3 feet tall.

‘Allium karataviens': A golf-ball-sized flower of a beautiful pale lilac with gorgeous smooth leaves dressed with reddish margins

‘Jeannine': Foot-tall stems bear brilliant-yellow 2-inch flower clusters. Late blooming.

‘Allium neapolitanum': Bright-white, sweet-smelling flowers measuring an inch or so across are borne on foot-tall stems.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Grow Organic” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is www.jessicawalliser.com.

Send your gardening or landscaping questions to tribliving@tribweb.com or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.