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Late Bloomers

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Blooming bulbs bring great colors to your spring garden, but fall blooming bulbs can brighten up a garden just as most plants are fading.

The middle of winter, while your tulip and daffodil bulbs are lying dormant in the ground, is a good time to plan your impending garden. It's easy to imagine that great burst of color when spring arrives, and also easy to think about how quickly it will end, leaving you a fall garden with little color. Enjoying a few colorful blossoms in the fall is also an option, though. Planting fall-blooming bulbs will give you some color in your garden in addition to the fall reds, yellows and browns.

Fall-blooming bulbs are not as well known as their spring cousins, so finding them may be a bit more challenging. Seed or bulb catalogues are a good place to look. As you search for fall bloomers, you may also encounter the term "corm." A corm is similar to a bulb although the shape is slightly different. A corm has a swollen stem base, which acts as the food reserve. Crocus and gladiolas are common corms (although only the saffron crocus variety will bloom in the fall). 

Plant fall-blooming bulbs in early spring, or after the danger of frost is passed. The bulbs should be planted four to six inches deep, in well-drained soil. Consider adding sharp gravel around the corms to dissuade pesky garden scavengers. Because these bulbs can be planted so deeply, ground covers or other plants with an open nature will not harm the bulbs buried beneath. 

The most commonly available fall bulb is the saffron crocus, also available in a white variety. As fall approaches, the leafless flower stalks of the crocus grow out of the ground and clusters of flaring, four-inch purple blooms appear on the stems. Other varieties of crocus include: medius, pulchellus, and speciosus. Speciosus, or "Showy Crocus" produces violet blue blooms with yellow anthers and deep orange stigmas. The plant will grow to five or six inches high. Also look for varieties of the showy crocus which include 'Cassiope' (aster blue flowers with yellow bases) and 'Conqueror' (clear, deep blue flowers).

Spring is not the only season that welcomes new life-fall blooms can brighten your yard, and your mood, just at the time other plants are turning brown.

Sources: Eleanore Lewis; Horticulture and Home Pest News; Sharon S. Bale.