By Candy Venni

I’m going to ask you to use the power of Google to search for images of Double tulip ‘Angelique’ follow it up with a ‘Fritillaria imperialis’ search and close your browser after ‘Allium giganteum’ – now that you can see the incredible diversity available – there’s no excuse for 1970’s style ‘red soldiers’ & ‘Yellow sentinels’ boring tulips, planted en masse all across parks in Canada (when cities had the budget for such extravaganzas) Yes, there was something amazing about the sudden appearance of these long stemmed clones poking up from barren soil but at the same time it seemed so artificial and bland.

We have more choices than ever before for our home gardens. Mix it up! Plant every colour of everything; what may seem gaudy at the end of a bright colourful summer will be balm to your snow blasted eyeballs come spring. Trust me – spring colours cannot clash.

Sure, sure, you say – but WHAT ABOUT THE SQUIRRELS???

Yes, the squirrels have more time than you do and a much keener sense of smell but we are (usually) smarter so I recommend…

  • Plant lots; More is more, I believe the very best way to stump a squirrel is to plant a few hundred bulbs rather than 10 or 15 (if squirrels eat 5 out of 10 tulips it will be disheartening, if they eat 5 out of 50 or 100 it will not be noticed)
  • Go deep or stay home – following the instructions on the packaging is nice but not accurate as the bulbs are packaged in Holland which has a milder climate and apparently milder squirrels. I know we all cheat a little just to get the job over with, and just who takes a measuring stick out into the garden anyway? Squirrels will only dig in loose soil and not very deep so dig deep.
  • Get sneaky & cover your tracks; leaving a trail of papery bulb casings is a map to your buried treasure, combine it with freshly turned soil & it’s a flashing scent beacon to furry fiends. Tromp the soil down with your Wellies. (prevents frost from heaving them up to the surface too) Watering afterwards also helps to dilute scent signals.
  • Fritillarias, Alliums, Daffodils, Muscari and Eranthis are less appetizing and wonderful bulb choices if you can’t bear the thought of tulips disappearing
  • Blood, Bone & Hen – it’s fertilizer, not voodoo – a good idea for the health of your soil overall, also rumoured to be somewhat effective at ‘cloaking’ your bulbs. Acti-sol is my favourite organic manure but there are plenty of other options.

The biggest problem with planting bulbs is the time of year.  Generally we’re feeling done with the garden and ready to curl up with a good book in front of a fire, carve pumpkins, drink spiced cider; anything but planting something that is completely invisible – BUT – your delayed gratification is repaid with compound interest come spring when each fresh bloom confirms that life will again come to the garden