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Fall brings new bulbs, variety of winter blooms

Garden centres in September are thrilling places.

Garden centres in September are thrilling places.

I've been haunting my local outlets every week to see the new bulbs coming in and to admire and choose plants from the long benches filled with pansies, neatly mounded mums, heathers, and flowering cabbage and kale.

I was very happy to find the new and highly unusual Orange Monarch crocus in orange flamed with bronze-burgundy. I bought two 10-corm packages, one to plant in a shallow, bowl-shaped planter to display on a stand on my patio at bloom time.

The other Orange Monarch corms went into a long, narrow bed that I renovated in early spring. Out went a motley mixture of overgrown perennials. The soil dug and replenished with compost, I planted well-spaced 'Arp' rosemary bushes alternately with 'Grosso' lavender, with a few low, mounding alpine plants at the front.

Along the other edge, I planted the Orange Monarch corms in a compact group, between two favourite autumnflowering crocus - the beautiful Crocus speciosus in lilac blue and the carmine pink C. zonatus, also locally purchased.

Thalia must be a very popular narcissus. One of my local garden centres had four boxes of the bulbs. Thalia bulbs I potted last fall bloomed for an extraordinarily long time in the spring, in enough profusion to provide cut flowers for a potluck gathering in my home. One of my friends so admired them that I made a note to plant a pot of the bulbs to present to her in bud next spring.

Thalia grows 35-cm (14 inches) tall and bears fragrant flowers with both petals and cup in creamy white.

Among the dwarf narcissi, Tête à Tête is a very popular variety, just 15 cm (six inches) high. Each bulb produces a little bouquet of sprightly yellow flowers. I always pot a 10-bulb group of Tête à Tête, often with violas or pansies over the bulbs, and move the bulbs into the garden when the planting is unpotted in summer.

A miniature narcissus I'm planting for the first time is the 20-cm (eight-inch) Little Gem, described as a "Mini King Alfred" narcissus with yellow petals and trumpet.

Among tulips, the Double Late (peony-flowered) Angelique is among the most popular as a cut flower. The soft pink blooms take on a range of lovely shades as they age. Orange Angelique is soft apricot-peach. Both are fragrant.

Interesting and fun tulip combinations abound, such as the blend of red and white tulips called Canadian, Eh!, a Parrot tulip mix called Masquerade, and Lemon-Lime Twist, a combination of two Viridiflora (green) tulips in yellow and white, both flamed in green. Viridiflora tulips are useful for extending the tulip season at the late end.

There is an Allium (flowering onion) blend called Double Bubble and a Magic Carpet Ride of mixed Muscari (grape hyacinths). And for gardens visited by deer there are deer resistant kits of mixed bulbs in colour schemes of your choice.

I finally dumped the summer petunias in matching patio pots onto the compost, and have replanted the pots. In one, I have planted red and white flowering kale and a viola in velvety purple, cream and yellow. In the other, I have combined long-flowering bud blooming heathers and pansies. These should give me colour and interest on the patio through the fall and beyond.

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