Spring-flowering bulbs to plant first this fall

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Q. What spring-flowering bulbs do you plant first in the fall?

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A. I begin by planting the earliest to bloom. Snowdrops (Galanthus), the first to flower, are available in single-flowered and double-flowered forms. Looking for the first snowdrops in bloom is a popular home gardener’s late winter venture.

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Crocuses come next. There are two spring-flowering types. Both flower in February and March. Snow crocuses, known also as botanical crocuses, produce smaller flowers in neat little clusters. Cream Beauty is an excellent variety.

Large Dutch crocuses begin flowering a bit later than snow crocuses. They make fine splashes of colour in the late winter garden, and are easy to fit into small spots in garden beds and along pathway edges.

Dwarf irises (Iris reticulata) flower in February and March. They are exquisite little gems, with delicate markings on the lower petals. Katherine Hodgkin and Katherine’s Gold are beauties.

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Chionodoxa (glory of the snow) blooms in March in my garden. There are blue, white and pink flowering forms. Pink Giant yields substantial clusters of small, waxy flowers that make sprightly little cut flower bouquets.

Some miniature daffodils bloom early. Tete a Tete and its double-flowered form Tete Boucle are popular favourites for garden beds and containers.

The ever-popular Trumpet daffodils, of the King Alfred type, bloom in March. Dutch Master is a slightly more compact version of the classic Trumpet daffodil.

March and April bring the earliest tulips to bloom including the majestic Emperor tulips in the Fosteriana class. Single Early and Double Early tulips flower in April. Classics among the Single Early tulips are Princess Irene, Couleur Cardinal and Pretty Princess.

Triumph tulips begin flowering in April. These are strong, multi-purpose tulips, beautiful in form and in many vivid colours.

Be aware that in their first year of bloom, the plantings will flower a little later than in subsequent years, and that site, soil, and weather conditions will exert some influence on the bloom period.

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