Dear Helen: What spring-flowering bulbs do you plant first?
I begin by planting the earliest to bloom. Snowdrops (Galanthus), the first to flower in many gardens, are available in single-flowered and double-flowered forms. For some home gardeners, looking for the first snowdrops in bloom is a compelling mid to late winter pastime.
Crocuses come next. There are two spring-flowering types. Both flower in February and March. Snow crocuses, known also as botanical crocuses, produce smaller flowers in neat little clusters. Cream Beauty is an excellent variety.
Large Dutch crocuses begin flowering a bit later than snow crocuses. They make fine splashes of colour in the late winter garden, and are easy to fit into small spots in garden beds and along pathway edges.
Dwarf irises (Iris reticulata) flower in February and March. They are exquisite little gems, with delicate markings on the lower petals. Katherine Hodgkin and Katherine’s Gold are beauties.
Chionodoxa (glory of the snow) blooms in March in my garden. There are blue, white and pink flowering forms. Pink Giant yields substantial clusters of small, waxy flowers that make sprightly little cut flower bouquets.
Some miniature daffodils bloom early. Tete a Tete is a popular favourite for garden beds and containers.
The ever-popular Trumpet daffodils, of the King Alfred type, bloom in March. Dutch Master is a slightly more compact version of the classic Trumpet daffodil.
March and April bring the earliest tulips to bloom including the majestic Emperor tulips in the Fosteriana class. Single Early and Double Early tulips flower in April. Classics among the Single Early tulips are Princess Irene, Couleur Cardinal and Pretty Princess.
Triumph tulips begin flowering in April. These are strong, multi-purpose tulips, beautiful in form and vividly variable in colour.
Be aware that in their first year of bloom, the plantings will flower a little later than in subsequent years, and that site, soil, and weather conditions will exert some influence on how early or late bulbs will flower.
Dear Helen: I am extremely fond of garlic. I love growing it, and eating it. My problem: Consuming raw garlic has begun to cause digestive upset. Have you encountered this issue? Can you think of any way around this?
If the adverse effects are extreme, I’d consult a physician. If they are just annoying, what I’d do in your place would be to roast garlic cloves lightly before using them in foods.
I often peel garlic cloves, place them in a heavy pan that has a lid, and drizzle them with olive oil and a tiny bit of water. To avoid burning the cloves, I roast them in the covered pot at a modest heat, around 250 to 300 F, until they are soft. You may find the garlic more digestible this way. It is certainly milder. Store in the fridge for up to a week.
For garlic mashed potatoes, I steam the cloves along with potato pieces until both garlic cloves and potatoes are tender and ready to mash together.
At this time, the garlic is newly harvested, fresh and juicy. As time goes on, the cloves in the stored bulbs will develop bitter centres that are best removed before using the garlic. Just halve the cloves lengthwise and take out the centre core.
View Royal meeting. The View Royal Garden club will meet today (Sept. 28) at 7:30 p.m. in Wheeley Hall, behind Esquimalt United Church, 500 Admirals Rd. Entrance is off Lyall St. Abigail Hyde of Satinflower Nurseries will discuss the importance of native plants, in particular their ability to help restore and enhance habitat within the urban context. The talk will include a close-up look at some of the plants and highlight ways for individuals to create pollinator-friendly landscapes that contribute to restoring biodiversity in Greater Victoria. The evening will include a judged mini-show. Non-member drop-in fee $5.
Government House plant sales. The Friends of Government House Gardens Society have perennial plants for sale at the nursery, across from the tea room at Government House, 1401 Rockland Ave. in Victoria, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Members receive a 25 per cent discount on plant purchases. Membership cost is $20. In appreciation for community support year round, the discount will be extended to everyone in the community on Sept. 27, 28 and 29. Plant sales end on Oct. 20.