Planting bulbs is a forward-thinking activity.

I can”t take any credit for having a mental gardening clock. Stores and advertisements have an uncanny knack for letting consumers know the right time to buy.

I just happen to frequent the garden section.

This week a co-worker asked if its too late to plant bulbs like daffodils and tulips. I”ve been writing about bulbs for months, but I was careful not to chide her for completely ignoring my life”s work.

If she has a question, she can just lean over my cubicle and ask.

There”s no right time to jump into gardening, and for most people, we think about the yard about the time we stop wearing sweaters.

My new favorite resource manual, the Butte County Master Gardeners 2011 Calendar, lists the last week of October as the time to begin planting daffodils. Planting can continue for 2-3 weeks to spread out the bloom.

In past years I have come across bulbs in the back of the fridge, on the front porch and in my sister”s closet that weren”t placed into the ground until Valentine”s Day.

Late-planted fall bulbs won”t be big winners. Because they are missing part of the growing cycle, they”ll often come up short, or with scraggly blooms later in the year.

But if you come across them, or better yet, get them free, put them in the ground so they can wow you in some future year.

For my friend, I”ll offer to take her shopping for some spring-planted bulbs.

Valentine”s Day bulb gifting

Rick Clack, a bedding buyer for Mendon”s Nursery in Paradise, said there can be plenty of bulb action in the upcoming weeks.

The No. 1 spring-planted bulb is gladiolas, Rick said, which can be planted now through the end of May or June. Gladiolas can be planted over time, to enjoy the bloom little by little.

My personal experience with gladiolas is that they multiply profusely, which meant baby corms were in the ground long after I had decided they weren”t a good fit for that particular part of the yard. While I wouldn”t advise against them, I would say choose their location carefully.

Rick said gladiolas won”t do as well in pots, because they need the deep soil.

He also suggested lilies for planting now, including in pots. Asiatic and tiger lilies will bloom in June.

Hold off on planting begonia tubers, because a quick freeze could kill the roots. Next month will also be time for planting dahlia tubers, the garden expert said.

Ranunculus and freesia are bulbs that most people prefer to plant in the fall, but Rick at Mendon”s said they can also be poked into the ground now.

Alas, Rick said squirrels and gophers will have the same appetite for spring-planted bulbs as they do for the fall varieties.

Flowers come and go

My friend”s original intention was to have something beautiful to look at when she entered and exited her apartment, preferably in a big pot on her front porch.

The good thing about annual flowers (meaning they die each year) is that they”re dirt cheap in six-packs.

If you watch public displays of flowers, such as the planter boxes downtown, entrances to shopping area and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., plants are usually pulled out and tucked in with the change of the season.

Right now, primroses are in full bloom, Rick said, and people are buying pansies.

Many buyers are putting in a few fall vegetables, to get a limited crop before the summer vegetable season.

Also, cyclamen are still in full bloom until the weather warms up, Rick said.

And just because its an annual doesn”t mean the plant will always die. I like to buy 4-inch pots with flowers in full bloom. After I enjoy them indoors or on the picnic table, I”ll plant them in the ground to fend for themselves.

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