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Plant bulbs this fall to feed bees in the spring

Editor’s note: Get Growing, written by the La Plata County Extension Office’s Master Gardener Program, appears during the growing season. It features timely tips and suggestions for your garden and landscape.By Melanie Palmer

Spring is the time when we look forward to our gardens awakening for the year. Bees are also getting back to work, and early spring is make-or-break time for some bees.

While I have added to my bulb collection every year for the sheer enjoyment of the colors and variety of bulbs, I had not given much thought to how bulbs benefit bees.

I attended a presentation by Gabriela Chavarria, a world authority on bees, at the Plant Select annual meeting at the Denver Botanic Garden. She made a strong case for planting spring-blooming bulbs as a source of food for bees. Although Colorado is an ideal location for just about every type of bulb, bulbs are underutilized here.

Bulbs such as snowdrops, glory of the snow, crocus and Siberian squill can provide much-needed food as the temperatures start to warm but before dandelions have started blooming.

As the season progresses, some urban landscapes have been mowed or have had applications of weed killer to remove dandelions from lawns. Mid-spring bloomers like grape hyacinth, fritillaria and Indian hyacinth will attract and provide an oasis for bees.

Later in spring, there are more options for bees, but gardeners who have planted bulbs will be rewarded with more bee activity for their gardens in general. Alliums, Spanish bluebells and Dutch iris add glorious colors, shapes and lots of built-in landing places for bees.

Surprisingly (or maybe not), daffodils are not that attractive to bees, perhaps because all but a few heirloom varieties have been greatly hybridized over the years. But daffodils are the foundation for a great display because they are deer proof and come in so many colors and bloom times.

For the eighth year, the Durango Botanical Society annual bulb sale will offer a huge variety of premium bulbs from Holland. The sale will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 13 in the Exhibit Hall at the La Plata County Fairgrounds, 2500 Main Ave.

Mike Smedley, the premier local bulb aficionado, will give a talk before the sale at 9 a.m.

For more information, visit durangobotanicalsociety.com.

Melanie Palmer has been a Colorado master gardener since 2012. She lives in La Plata County.

If you go

Durango Botanical Society’s Bulb Sale, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 13, in the Exhibit Hall at the La Plata County Fairgrounds, 2500 Main Ave. Mike Smedley will give a talk at 9 a.m. before the sale.