Spring Bulbs

Gardening with Nature

Article by Sigrie Kendrick

Plant spring bulbs now for xeriscape colour later

In addition to perennials, fall is the ideal time to get a jump on next year’s garden by planting bulbs to provide a pop of colour in the spring garden.

A xeriscape flower that many people don’t think of is the spring-flowering bulbs such as narcissis, crocus, tulips and scillas.

Drought-tolerant or technically, drought-avoidant bulbs, bloom before the heat of the summer season and benefit from dry conditions once they have finished blooming.

Since our mandate is to help educate people about ways to conserve water used on the landscape, promoting spring bulbs is right up there with hiking for a fun fall activity, in my books.

Winter Aconite (Eranthis Hyemalis)
Winter Aconite (Eranthis Hyemalis)
Turkestan onion (Allium karatievense) Spring bulb
Turkestan onion (Allium karatievense)

Two of my favourites

One of the earliest bulbs to appear in spring is Winter Aconite (Eranthis Hyemalis) which pokes its cheery yellow head up as early as late February, often in the same time frame as snowdrops, although it is not as common.

It is well worth searching out this bulb as it will naturalize in your garden and in time allow you to share some bulbs with your friends.

It seems that few gardens in the Okanagan are untouched by marauding deer, so homeowners are always on the lookout for plants those pesky animals tend to shun. Another great bulb for the spring garden is the Turkestan onion (Allium karatievense), a member of the onion family. That means it is ‘stinky’ to deer, although not to us, and as such it’s usually not on the menu for our four-legged friends.

Narcissus poeticus

Narcissus poeticus


Narcissus in the UnH2O garden

The Narcissus Family

Another bulb deer tend to go by without nibbling is the narcissus family.

These can provide up to six weeks of bloom with a selection of early, mid, and late-flowering varieties, plus they are readily sourced at nurseries or big box stores.

One of the varietals that we planted recently in the OXA UnH2O Xeriscape Demonstration Garden on Gordon Drive, is the absolutely-stunning Narcissus poeticus, which is, ironically, one of the oldest daffodils to be cultivated, dating back to ancient times.

I’m enamoured with its simple shape and pure white petals, so different from the brassy yellow we usually associate with daffodils.

No matter what you decide to plant this fall, the anticipation of a colourful array of spring flowers from your fall bulb planting will help you through the dark winter days to come.

Crocus in the Okanagan spring

Crocus chrysanthus

Galunthus nivalis - snowdrop

Galanthus nivalis

Follow OXA on Facebook and Instagram for fantastic photos of inspiring xeriscape gardens from around the valley which dispel the myth that xeriscape is simply rocks and cacti. Sigrie Kendrick is a Master Gardener and Executive-Director of the Okanagan Xeriscape Association. She can be reached at 778-363-8360 or by email at exec_dir@okanaganxeriscape.org.

As a group blog and forum, we really appreciate your contributions and comments and hope to create a blossoming community of xeriscape gardeners well as a valuable archive of articles.


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