Fall Is Planting TimeMaster Gardener Scoop

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By Leora McTall,

Master Gardener

Now that fall is officially here, lots of digging is going on! Gardeners' shovels start flying as the race is on to beat the first snow; so much to do, so little time.

Daffodils and Tulips come to mind as we consider our fall planting chores. Both of these colorful flowers turn our heads in the spring, and now is the time to get the bulbs in the ground. There are over 25,000 registered cultivars of daffodils and some 3,000 varieties of tulips; so the choice is endless!

Both daffodil and tulip bulbs specify early, mid or late-season bloom. This helps plan your garden as to whether you prefer continuous bloom: early-mid-late, or would like several flowers to bloom together.

So if early bloom is your favorite, the yellow daffodil "Rijnveld's Early Sensation" would be a great choice, since this flower is known to bloom in the snow. It actually bloomed in our Irvington garden in January one year (though not before or since). It's always fun to beat your neighbor!

An early Greigii tulip is "Red Riding Hood" which is a short, bright crimson red beauty – perfect for rock gardens. Greigii tulips have variegated leaves, placing "Red Riding Hood" into that group, with its purple mottled leaves. Plant this award winner with grape hyacinth for a striking combination.

Crocus' welcome spring with bright patches of color, such as yellow, purple, orange, gold, brown, purple and white striped and even a tri-color of purple, white and yellow. Species crocus bloom earlier than hybrid crocus which have larger flowers. So to extend your crocus growing season, plant both species and hybrids.

For a springtime carpet of blue, plant several "Chionodoxa" (Glory of the Snow). One hundred of these small bulbs were planted just outside the living room window, causing this gardener to stare out the window, soaking in the beauty on a cold, early spring day.

Early fall is when we plant Siberian iris which are beardless. These iris bloom after the Tall Bearded iris, and the Siberian's graceful, grassy foliage makes a lovely addition to the summer landscape. One of the most popular, dependable Siberian iris is the velvety, rich purple "Caesar's Brother".

The Mid-Illinois Iris Society recently auctioned 27 Siberian iris at their meeting. (Membership in plant societies is a good way to acquire plants, whether it be an auction, sale, or from other members.)

Since Siberian iris requires a slightly acidic soil, this is a good time to mention the University of Illinois Extension soil workshops on Oct. 7 and 28 at the Washington County Extension Office and on Oct. 15 and 29 at the Marion Co. Extension Office. The workshops are free, and there is a reduced rate for the soil test. Call your county office for more information.

Some other flower bulbs to plant in the fall include hyacinths, alliums, snowdrops and squill. So get out your shovel and start planting. There will be plenty of time to rest when the snow flies!

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Fall Is Planting Time

Siberian Iris, "Swans in Flight" seen here with its very large white blooms.  This iris is an award winner, and was seen in several tour gardens at the 2015 Iris Convention in Portland, Oregon.  Next year it will be seen in several area gardens, as local irisarians were smitten with this beauty and will be planting it this fall.