Planning next year’s early spring garden

It may seem crazy to think about next year’s garden already, only a few weeks into this year’s growing season, but if you’re anything like me, you’re already noticing gaps.  This point was brought home to me a few Sundays ago while I was admiring Crocus blossoms enjoying the afternoon sunshine.  I’ve planted hundreds and hundreds of Crocus corms on this property over the past 20 years, but they don’t seem to naturalize very well here, like they did in previous gardens.  As a result, this year, I can pinpoint exactly where the dozen or two blooms are.  There should be so many more! 

The point here is not a lack of flowers in early April, but a lack of pollen for pollinators:  at each crocus I saw at least one and often two and sometimes three, bees frantically rooting around inside the crocus flower.  And it hit me:  I need to plant more crocuses this fall.  And perhaps more Chianodoxa as well – they’re spreading really nicely in a few areas and I should plant more.

The trick in introducing new bulbs to an established garden is planning.  I don’t want to plant where I know they don’t grow well, I don’t want to plant where I know they may interfere with veggie or annual flower planting, nor where current shrubs and perennials and trees are likely to get larger and cover the area.

So I’ve been wandering.  Meandering around the yard, in all the garden areas, looking at where those few Croci were blooming, wondering if I can add a dozen or so more to that spot.  Wondering what the soil conditions are like there that encourage them to survive.   While I’m wandering, I notice all the other spring bulbs coming up – thousands of daffs, hundreds of tulips and Hyacinth and Allium.  Patches of Camassia, Leucojum, fading Galanthus and, of course, the emerging leaves of fall-flowering Colchicum.

And I’m planning – what to buy, where to plant it, when it may bloom and how the colour and bloom time will relate to the garden as a whole. Here are a few thoughts.

This corner where the driveway splits to form the Island bed already has a few crocus, which will be followed by yellow Primula and Narcissus hawera – but it could do with a large splash of colour.
This is a newly configured section of the kitchen garden. I’ve put a lot of small, late blooming daffs on the right, and a row of red and white tulips on the left. At the end if May I’ll plant yellow beans all over this section, so I could add a lot more croci here. The soil is rich from several years of added manure and compost – things should do well!
More tulips at the other end of the kitchen garden – Nasturtiums will be planted here in about six weeks but a few dozen crocus scattered about would do well, I think.
There are loads of tulips and daffs in this section of the Island garden, to be followed by lupins, French Iris and Echinacea. It really needs something first – perhaps a swath of Chianodoxa, or I might even try Eranthus, or maybe Scilla, since it’s growing already in the wooded area behind the path:

The first bulb catalogues are out, and I’ve been on the internet, oohing and aaahing over so many gorgeous spring bulbs around the world. The next trick is remembering, in October, where I want to plant things. That’s really why I wrote this post – so I can come back to it and remember what the garden looks like in April.


  1. Some of our earlier planning included the relocation of ferals. Before our scheduling got so crazy, we intended to dig some of the narcissus that grew from seed or bits of bulbs that grew in road debris. It will be a while before we can dig them, but we will have so much other work to catch up on, that we probably will not do it. By autumn, we might relocate bearded iris. They look great, but are in a dump yard where no one sees them. We have plenty of space for them, but finding the right space is not as simple as it sounds.

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  2. Good reminder Chris – taking pictures of places where we could ‘do more’ at the right time of year is a great tip. I feel for your bees, fighting over the crocus. I have a similar problem with them in my garden. Don’t establish well. But then they pop up where I never planted them! There’s a hint from nature there.

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