Putting the ‘dig’ in shindig

Annual plant and bulb sale has perfect timing for local gardens

Crocus don’t attract deer, but they are irresistible to butterflies, as this Western Painted Lady seeks nectar from a drift of Crocus chrysanthus “Cream Beauty” blooming last March in a north Durango garden. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Amy Wendland

Crocus don’t attract deer, but they are irresistible to butterflies, as this Western Painted Lady seeks nectar from a drift of Crocus chrysanthus “Cream Beauty” blooming last March in a north Durango garden.

When leaves turn and temperatures fall, it’s Mother Nature’s way of saying “time to quit gardening.”

What a bunch of compost! Now’s the best time to plant perennials, shrubs and many trees.

And, to top it off, if you want glorious drifts of spring blooms, autumn is the only time to purchase and plant hardy bulbs, which add vibrant yellows, electric blues and jewel tones to the otherwise dormant-dreary garden of March and April.

So it’s time to rally, gardeners. While others are throwing in the trowel for the season, we need to throw down the garden-glove gauntlet. Get plants, get planting – and Durango Botanical Society is up to the challenge

The botanical society is a group of passionate plant people. Its members created the beautiful demonstration garden at Durango Public Library next to the Animas River Trail.

They’re planning a shindig – with the emphasis on “dig.”

Monday is the society’s annual plant-and-bulb sale at the library, featuring hundreds of great hardy plants from local growers, along with expert advice from garden gurus and a free presentation on 20 kinds of spring bulbs that deer won’t eat.

The multimedia bulb presentation will begin at 10 a.m. in the library conference room presented by this author, an unapologetic corm slinger who grows thousands of early blooming treasures.

Then, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the plant sale will be held in the demonstration garden. There’s no entry fee, you don’t have to be a member of the botanical society to attend and proceeds from the sale will go to the care, maintenance and additions to the library garden.

The plant selection will be vast, with specimens from Durango’s leading retail nurseries, Durango Nursery and Supply and Native Roots, as well as Four Corners Natives, a specialty grower of regional flora founded by one of the West’s top plantsmen, Jeff Wagner of Durango.

Why plant in fall?

“In autumn, the soil is still warm and roots develop,” Wagner said. “In spring, what everyone thinks is the best planting time, the opposite is true. The soil is still cold and soggy and the plants are concentrating on developing leaves.”

That’s less than optimal.

“In spring, we put plants in the ground only to let them dry out in the traditionally dry periods of May and June, unless we irrigate,” he said.

Wagner urges local gardeners to maximize weather patterns.

“In the Four Corners, we typically see dry springs and wet autumns. It’s best to take advantage of that,” he said.

Perennials and woody shrubs can be planted successfully now through the next several hard freezes. However, the time for planting conifers passed in mid-September, he said.

Expert garden consultant and Durango Botanical Society founding board member Lisa Bourey agrees.

“Plants that are planted in the fall never skip a beat. They go into the ground prior to dormancy, so there’s less transplant shock,” she said. “You can also see your garden at its fullest point of growth in autumn, so you can site your plantings much better than in springtime.

“Not only is autumn planting easier on the plants, it’s easier on the gardener,” she said.

The days are cool and the mid-day sun is not harsh. The frantic rush of spring planting has passed, and a more deliberate and focused approach can be taken.

Wagner and Bourey and several other local horticultural experts will be on hand for a to answer questions at the plant and bulb sale Monday. With sage advice, you’ll avoid the gardening mistakes made by the trowel-and-error approach.

Daffodils’ beauty belie their iron constitution as deer-proof stalwarts of spring. Here in an Animas City garden, the species Narcissus Brackenhurst toughs out a mid-April dusting of snow. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Mike Smedley

Daffodils’ beauty belie their iron constitution as deer-proof stalwarts of spring. Here in an Animas City garden, the species Narcissus Brackenhurst toughs out a mid-April dusting of snow.

Glowing blue, gold and white of the Tricolor crocus (Crocus sieberi “tricolor”) provide a cheerful and deer-resistant highlight to the dullness of still-dormant gardens of early spring. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Mike Smedley

Glowing blue, gold and white of the Tricolor crocus (Crocus sieberi “tricolor”) provide a cheerful and deer-resistant highlight to the dullness of still-dormant gardens of early spring.