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Mums the word right now but bulbs bring promise of spring

Bulbs offer colourful reward after long winters

Bright coloured mums are the stars of fall gardens but if you want a burst of colour after winter, it's time to get dirty.

Plant spring bulbs now and you'll win the flower jackpot in a few months. 

"Bulbs are something you really should be doing at this time of year. It's just the promise of spring," said Debra Lidstone, landscape designer at Barrie's Garden Centre on Bayview.

Lidstone says you can plant bulbs as long as you can dig a hole in the ground. That is, before the ground freezes.

There are as many bulbs as there are gardeners and one flower is more intricate and breathtaking than the next. 

She recommends choosing early bulbs because winter is long and we're hungry for colour as soon as we can get it.

And it's not rocket science either, according to the veteran gardener.

Spring flowering bulbs need no fertilizer for their first season of blooming.

The planting process is simple.

"Pointy end up and roots down. That's really all there is to it."

Lidstone says early bulbs are the ones that will spread or naturalize and make the ground their own without being aggressive.

Some of her favourites include snowdrops, crocus and mini daffodils.

Gardeners should look for species tulips, says Lidstone, because squirrels and rabbits (notorious tulip predators) don't like them.

Species are a variety of tulips that have not been bred or hybridised and remain essentially as they are found in nature.

She says species tulips are smaller than their hybrid cousins but they are unusual and often attract attention.

But all bulbs are wonderful and blooming can be staggered, depending on what you plant.

Early spring, mid spring and late bloomers are usually noted on the package.

If you are moving established bulbs around, Lidstone recommends using blood or bone meal to fertilize and deter pests.

Lidstone has worked at Barrie's Garden Centre for 11 years.

She says fall is a great time to tidy up your garden, but wait until after a couple of good killing frosts to ensure plants are in a state of dormancy.

For flowering shrubs, it's an opportunity to control their size or shape them if need be.

But Lidstone says the rule of thumb is not to trim more of a third of the plant.

For perennials, she says scoop up everything that's above the ground and cut the plant to about three inches above the surface.

"Everything that's important about the plant is beneath the ground, well protected snug and cozy for winter under a blanket of snow."

Once you clean up the debris, you can refresh your clean and tidy garden with mulch or a layer of compost or triple mix.

And one final housekeeping tip, something you might not consider: Lidstone says it's really important to water evergreens.

She says they need a really big drink before the ground is frozen.

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