2015-10-01 / From The Garden

It May Be Fall, But Think Spring!

By Cynthia Gibson


Fritillaria imperialis Fritillaria imperialis We may want to hang on to the last moments of Indian summer before launching into fall, but the cooler weather is nearing. I have found a safety valve for these chilly nights: I think about spring.

Now until the end of October is prime time for planting bulbs. What looks like various sizes of onions with brown skin are really tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, and lilies. If you order from a catalog, John Scheepers is great. Order soon, as new varieties and stalwart standbys sell out quickly. Hybridizers have been busy creating new types of tulips and lilies. You might give them a try.

As for daffodils, the varieties are vast. Newport is about to “Get Daffy” for another year. The Daffodillion committee will be holding a free bulb giveaway on Saturday, Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Easton’s Beach. The quest is to plant a million daffodil bulbs, and the city is close to the halfway point of that goal. This spring, there will be another Daffy Days celebration in honor of the festive flower.


Fritillaria meleagris Fritillaria meleagris Tulips are also great to see in the spring, as are the very fragrant large hyacinth and their diminutive relatives, the grape hyacinth. Be bold, try a few unusual bulbs. Alliums are beautiful and come in more shapes and sizes than you can imagine. All alliums are part of the onion family and their stems will smell like onions. Some of the larger varieties are up to eight inches across and look like snowflakes when they are dried. They are sensational.

One of the most regal bulbs for fall planting is the Fritillaria imperialis. They come in yellow, orange, and red-orange, and are lovely when grown in groups. Fritillaria is a very large species with more than 100 varieties available, even bi-color or striped. Many fritillaria are small and not gigantic or dramatic like imperialis. The most eyecatching version is Fritillaria meleagris, in that it looks like a purple and pink checkerboard.


Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Don’t forget crocuses and snowdrops; they are true mood changers. Snowdrops planted within the next few weeks will come up in a January thaw and bloom by February. Crocuses will emerge right after the snowdrops.

Garden Tips

Divide perennials such as iris, day lilies, astilbe, and any other clump-like perennials, so their stunted growth will end. The new growth after division will make your plant much stronger. Share divided plants with friends. This is the time to divide your perennials.

Prepare flower beds by adding new soil and nutrients.

Return to top