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The Layered Look

Most gardeners wait for spring to do their heavy-duty planting. Yet, to me, fall is far better because you can renovate an old flower bed or create a new one with just about EVERYTHING you need for a full season of color next year--starting with the earliest spring bulbs.

I call it the layered look: Planting layers of bulbs with different flowering times and planting perennials in the same spot--so you have about six different flowering events in the very same spot through spring, summer and fall next year! Far more interesting than a bunch of annuals being plopped into that spot for the same dreary look week in and week out.

Basically, here's how the layered garden works: Dig out an area about ten inches deep. Mix in compost, manure, bone meal, peat moss, etc. at the bottom. If your soil is too sweet (that is, if you've noticed yellowing leaves among plants in your yard) then mix fine or granular sulphur into the bed. That will help acidify your soil. Most lilies require soil on the acid side.

Then start planting your layers as your imagination dictates.

Plunk groupings of daffodils or late-flowering tulips (Darwins, Parrots, etc.) at this lowest level. Between them plant groupings of lilies with different flowering times: Asiatics, Orientals, etc. Then shovel a couple inches of soil on top of this lowest level as well as compost, bone meal, composted turkey manure (my favorite) and then plant groupings of earlier-flowering tulips.

Then shovel in soil to ground level, adding soil amendments as you go. Then plant your groupings of perennials that have different blooming times: from Oriental poppies and doronicum (spring-flowering) to Sedum "Autumn Joy" and perennial asters (fall blooms).

Between the perennials, poke in the minor spring-flowering bulbs and perhaps even a few fall-flowering colchicum that probably will be coming into bloom as you plant them. That's great! You'll be rewarded immediately for your efforts. (Colchicum flowers in the fall with no leaves--it looks "naked"--and sprouts leaves in the spring, which then die back. It's a curious plant.)

Put in lots of scilla (an ocean of blue flowers first thing in spring; will look great with earliest-flowering red and yellow tulips), puschkinia, iris (the type that comes from bulbs), snowdrops, species crocus, tarda species tulips...You be the judge!

But the end result is: you'll hardly be able to wait for spring! While most other gardeners are waiting for their soil to thaw out so they can start their planting, you'll be watching a succession of many bulbs and flowers coming into their glory and continually being replaced with a new look!

Capture all the changes through the season with a camera!

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