Gadbois: Tulip planting time

OPINION – Last time, I mentioned so many things I have to do in the garden before the late fall and first snow arrive. I have been fairly good at keeping true to plan – have had some hazard trees removed and others trimmed and have removed and composted a lot of spent floral debris.

The lawn has been mowed for the last time. Since garden cleanup can be done in the spring too, I am mainly following the advice of most gardening blogs now which suggest leaving some vegetation to lay where it falls, to enrich the soil as it composts in situ and to protect the insects and pollinators which overwinter in it. That also includes not being too quick to clean away fallen leaves on the lawn as they will decompose and be gone by spring, or at least will disappear under the first mowing.

Any spring flowering bulbs should be planted now. Tulips have never been a great success on our property as we have too many little critters, squirrels and chipmunks mainly, which pounce and dig them up the minute they perceive any disturbed soil. If some do manage to emerge, the heads are snapped off within the first few days of blooming. Infuriating. In years past, I have planted my fair share of tulip bulbs in anticipation of an early spring showing, and inevitably have been disappointed time and again. I have learned to plant daffodils instead.

This year, another strategy: I have ordered two packs of 15 special tulip bulbs and will plant them not in the ground but in deep containers with new potting soil, store them in our unheated garage and bring them out to bloom in the spring. You only water them once upon planting and forget them until the spring when you water again and bring them outside as other plants are starting to pop up. It is a little like forcing bulbs inside the house but apparently using this method, you can recuperate the bulbs after they have produced, aged and waned, and then start the process over again the year after…we’ll see.

The tulips bulbs I have chosen this year are special as they are in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands in 2020. This holds particular meaning for me as my father was in service in the Netherlands with the First Canadian Army at that time.

The Canadian Tulip Festival, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the National Capital Commission are celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands with the Liberation75 Tulip. The goal is to cover the country in 1.1 million Liberation75 Tulips in honour of the 1.1 million Canadians who served during the Second World War. You can visit their website, find out more about the initiative and order your own bulbs at the following link:

Today though, it is raining, very damp and chilly, and that’s my excuse for staying indoors to finish this column. My summer containers and porch plantings are still out there, still brimming with flowering plants. I cover them at night when the forecast calls for frost. The first mild frosts of the past two weeks have finished off the coleus and weakened the trailing vines but the geraniums are still flowering and mums closest to the house are still intact and blooming. Next to my front door, where it’s the warmest and most protected, the two large containers are still quite beautiful, though the chill has claimed a few of the more tender trailers. 

It will be a job to remove all the dead summer plant material over the next few weeks, compost and replace it with freshly cut evergreens (cedar, spruce, juniper and yew), dried flowers and seed pods (e.g., hydrangea, sumac, and native grasses of various sorts) to form the winter containers. All plant material is sourced mainly from our property or gathered on daily walks with the dog around the neighbourhood. As long as they have structure, spent dried plant material can be useful in designing a host of fall and winter arrangements. I rarely need to purchase anything commercially as a quick spray of gilt or silver metallic paint and a recycling of choice old holiday ornaments will add sparkle and festivity to the design. Fun to do.

We are coming to the end of the growing season. Sad for those who take pleasure in these pursuits but luckily, this season’s bounty is still available for the next few weeks at the farmers’ markets. We are so very fortunate to have one of the best markets here in Carp on Saturday mornings, replete with much fresh produce from local farms and orchards. It’s so nice to be able to support our local producers and artisans.

The next meeting of the West Carleton Garden Club will give us an opportunity to gather and start planning our gardens for next year and more specifically how to attract birds to it. Come to Carp Memorial Hall, 3739 Carp Rd, on Nov. 12 at 7:30 p.m. to hear Bob Volks from Gilligallou Bird Inc. in Almonte, speak on Naturalizing Your Backyard & Birds 101. Members: free, Guests: $5. Refreshments. Info at:

In the meantime, do enjoy the splendid show Mother Nature is putting on for us now and revel in all her marvellous fall colours.

Anne Gadbois is a long-time member of the West Carleton Garden Club and its past president. Gadbois, who lives in Corkery Woods. Anne writes on the wonders and challenges of gardening in our large, geographically diverse area.