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Bulb garden offers variety for three seasons

Crocus are often the first bulbs to flower in the spring.

Crocus are often the first bulbs to flower in the spring.

Q: I have room for a garden here in the courtyard of my new home. It’ll get quite a bit of sun and is pretty protected from the wind.

I want to plant bulbs that’ll bloom for each season. Would you please make suggestions for me? Thanks! – WSG, Albuquerque

A: How exciting! A new canvas to paint. The nifty part is your choices are going to be available soon for the summer and early fall plantings.

The spring blooming bulbs, for the most part, needed to be planted last fall, but don’t despair. You will soon be able to find pots of “prefinished” spring bloomers to fill in for the time being. It’s way too early to plant the summer and fall bloomers now, but there are things you should do in the meantime.

For summer, amaryllis belladonna adds height to a garden.

For summer, amaryllis belladonna adds height to a garden.

First, I’d suggest drawing out a plot map of the garden. Put it in the journal you’ll be keeping that will list things like how much sun that area gets, at what time of day, perhaps temperatures – highs and lows – and whether the plants you put in do really well in a certain area or if they struggle. It’s good to keep a written journal.

The map will be your guide to the hidden treasures you’ve put in so they aren’t mistakenly dug up and disturbed later.

This time of year, you need to concentrate on improving the garden soil. It’s too cold for me but, if you have the wherewithal to get out and start to work the soil, do!

Turning the soil will incorporate much-needed oxygen and perhaps bring up any soil-dwelling pests to the surface, and hopefully rid the area of them, but this year there is a wee caveat. Since it’s been so moist, the soil will probably clump. Clumpy soil doesn’t hold oxygen. In fact, it pushes it out, so it might be early to start any soil roughing work.

That just gives you more time to get your journal started, draw your plot map, and do some research on bulbs and start a wish list.

Cannas bring vibrant color to an autumn display.

Cannas bring vibrant color to an autumn display.

Now, some of the choices by season for you to consider.

Spring brings the usual contenders: tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and crocus. The crocus are usually the first to pop up, followed closely by the hyacinths. These bulbs tend to stay short naturally, so put them in mass plantings and near the front of the bed so you’ll get to see them. The hyacinths are quite fragrant, too, so more is better.

You’ll get to add others, some that are bulbs and some that are not, but are treated like bulbs. Ranunculus, anemone, hardy cyclamen, Dutch iris, fritillaria and gladiolus make great displays.

For the summer bloom, consider amaryllis belladonna – a terrifically tall relative to your holiday amaryllis – cannas, dahlias and all manner of lilies. There are so many different textures and colors to find for your summer displays.

Continuing into the autumn months, cannas, lilies and tuberous begonias will give their all for your display. If you can find them, a bulb called lycoris, or spider lily, although not terrifically winter-hardy here, would make a great addition for a “something different” type of plant. Among the bulb plantings, tuck in some clumping dianthus, commonly known as “pinks,” and perhaps columbine.

The available palette is enormous, so keep a lookout for the bulb displays coming soon and have gobs of fun – first planning and then planting your new bulb bed.

Need tips on growing your garden? Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send your garden-related questions to Digging In, Rio West, P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, NM 87103.