November 1, 2013

Planning for Spring Bulb Bloom Progression at Spokane Temple

Fall planting of pansies, kale and spring blooming bulbs is finally finished at the Spokane Temple.  Now if only I could convince a crew of volunteers to help me finish planting the hundreds of bulbs I have sitting in my garage for my own yard, ugh.  Anyway, we decided to do a few things differently at the Spokane Temple grounds after visiting Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah, and talking with one of the head gardeners there about his spring plantings.

This year we planted ornamental kale and pansies in a few flower beds inside the temple gates, just as we did the previous fall.  Last winter was fairly mild for us, and the kale lasted several months before becoming so ratty that it needed to be pulled out.  The pansies hunkered down to make it through the winter and bloomed heavily in the spring before being removed to make room for the summer annuals.  A harsh winter this year might kill the pansies, but if that happens we'll plant more in the spring to serve as underplanting for the bulbs.

 After talking with the Temple Square designer/gardener (thanks Larry!), we decided to focus on the four flower beds right by the entrance doors so we can create an exuberant celebration of spring each year where all visitors can enjoy it.  We plan to pull out all the old bulbs and replant new ones in those four areas each year.  This will give us the ability to use fancy tulips that only bloom well for one year.  It will also make it much easier to plant the summer annuals, since we won't be trying to plant around bulb foliage.  Many areas outside the fence are planted with daffodils and grape hyacinths that come back well every year, so we'll let them continue to do their thing.      

I created collages to help me plan the bloom progression for these entrance gardens from February (or March, if the winter is very cold) through May.  We order bulbs from Zonneveld, a Dutch bulb exporter.  Their catalog gives helpful information about each type of bulb, including an estimated bloom time.  The cute little flower bulbs above should bloom in February and the first part of March.  Bloom times vary from year to year depending on the weather.  Sometimes a warm week will pull things into bloom early, then cool weather will keep the blooms fresh for a couple of weeks afterward.  Sometimes the heat strikes at the wrong time and the open blooms fry and die within a few days.   

There are limited choices for early spring bloomers, but the selection increases as spring progresses.  Around here the earliest tulips (like 'Showwinner', above) don't bloom until March.  We have red, orange and yellow perennial tulips planted nearby these entrance beds.  Therefore we're kind of tied to a similar color scheme each year (though I added some deep pink hyacinths into the mix).  That's fine because us cold climate folks are hungry for bold color after a long, grey winter.  The photo above doesn't do justice to 'Orange Princess,' which blooms with glorious shadings of color flaming up the petals. 

This last collage shows the big bang finish in April and May.  Last year double 'Miranda' tulips brought ohhhs and ahhhs from everyone who visited.  Somehow I didn't make it over to take photos, sigh.  Taller orange 'Ballerina' tulips should bloom with 'Miranda', while long-lasting grape hyacinths and the resurrected pansies will make a cool understory.  Topping out at two feet or more, giant 'Temple of Beauty' and 'Cashmir' tulips will be the last to bloom before we dig them all out and plant summer annuals.  Putting together the annual seed order for our grower is on my To Do list during the next few weeks. 

We planted in three stages.  Here the tulip, hyacinth and daffodil bulbs are laid out to be planted in the deepest layer (thanks Marilyn for letting me use these last two photos).  I tried to follow the Temple Square method of laying each type out in flowing curves.  We'll see how well it worked in spring.  My brain felt fried after dividing up and laying out hundreds of bulbs in symmetrical patterns in both of the spiral beds and the smaller front door beds.  Then I helped Marilyn and her volunteer crews (or just Marilyn if no one else came) spend hours planting.  Because we're only planning to keep these bulbs in the ground for one bloom season, we can plant very close together.  We just have to make sure the area gets watered regularly if we have a dry spring.       

Last year I mixed all the bulbs for each area together and had volunteers spread and plant them.  To our dismay, we figured out in spring that small bulbs (crocus, mini iris, chionodoxa, muscari) just don't make an impact unless they're planted in groups.  So this time I laid them all out in groups of five or seven to plant after the big bulbs, kale and pansies.  
It's amazing how much work was required to prepare and plant these four smallish areas.  Most of the people who enjoy the flowers in spring will have no idea of the hours spent planning and planting.  But us volunteers do this work to express our love for God through serving others, and I feel Him smiling down on our efforts.  Then in spring it's just icing on the cake to see delight on the faces of visitors when the flowers put on their show.   

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