Fall succession planting for a continuous spring garden

A beautiful spring garden begins in the fall.

To guarantee a continuous show of blooms throughout the spring season now is the time to think about and plan for succession planting.

Let’s face it, no matter how much you love winter, the appearance of the first blooms in the new year is a welcomed sight. Keeping the garden blooming is a trick and requires a plan.

First, pick your spot. I have bulbs that bloom in the spring scattered throughout my garden, but I try to concentrate the early blooms near my driveway and front door. This is the spot where they will bring me the most joy as I come and go from the little house on a big hill.

I will plan to have very early, early, mid, and late blooms fade in and out through the spring season. To do this, I will prepare the site and plant the bulbs this fall.

Snowdrops (Galanthus), snow crocus, and dwarf iris (Iris reticulata) will be the first to appear, often while there is still snow on the ground. These are small flowers, and they will not grow tall, but seeing them is a wonderful way to cheer up a winter day.

The next will be the early spring crocus and early daffodils. When planting the bulbs in the fall, I use separate holes. Some gardeners use the same planting trench for several spring bulbs.

If using the trench method, try digging the hole slightly deeper and wider than for one type of bulb. Condition the soil with bulb fertilizer or bone meal. The largest bulb, such as giant alliums, would be placed in the soil first, then lightly covered with a thin layer of soil. Next, the medium bulbs such as dutch iris, grape hyacinth (Muscari), and smaller tulips are layered in and covered with soil. Finally, add the small bulbs such as crocus, anemone, and snowdrops adding the final layer of soil when finished. If you want to add icing to the cake, plant a few pansies or violas on top.

Since I have separate rows for each bulb, I keep in mind the mature height and colors of the plants. I aim to gradually increase the height and color intensity as the rows move away from the border and into the garden. But note, these rows are planted close together and blend as one through the season.

As the early crocus finish, mid-spring hyacinth, bluebells, daffodils, and tulips emerge. With these beauties, the spring garden comes alive, and gardeners rejoice in the signs of the new season.

The last of my summer bulbs to bloom are alliums, dutch iris, and late tulips. Tulips may be my favorite flower, but the deer love them too. Alliums save the day; the deer are not interested in these purple globes. My young neighbor calls allium blooms Dr. Seuss flowers, and that makes me love them even more.

I will throw in gladioli and a few others I can’t resist, but not in the big swaths of bulbs planned for succession design. Planting in mass will increase the impact of the blooms, especially in the early garden.

A good rule to remember when timing the planting of your bulb garden is that bulbs that bloom in the early, mid, and late spring bulbs should be planted between September and November. Bulbs that will bloom in the late summer are available in nurseries and garden centers in the spring and can be placed in the ground after the danger of the last frost has passed.

As you plan your garden, take a second look at your varieties and their bloom times. Not all daffodils bloom at the same time. Some tulips bloom early, and others appear later in the season. This information should be available when you purchase bulbs. It can be a fun experiment to find different tulips to appear at different times. Maybe having scattered blooming tulip times will be a challenge you accept to incorporate in your succession garden plans.

Fall is a busy time in the garden, but doing the work for spring blooms will be well worth it when the spring flowers seem to appear almost effortlessly after a long winter.