Spring heat

Cool-season flowers offer a warm spring welcome in this brick-framed planter in a Denver front yard. The purple-and-orange planting combines tulips and pansies, set out in October for bloom in May.

To create the floral extravaganza, Jessi McVay and Skye Mason of the Garden Gals design team mixed 'Orange Jimmy' and deep purple 'Negrita' tulips with three kinds of pansies: 'Hardy Boy Orange', multicolored 'Jolly Joker', and 'Rockies Purple'. Since Colorado's early-spring weather is unpredictable, with periodic warm spells punctuated by snow as late as May, McVay and Mason always take extra care when planting.

They plant in southern or western exposures, and the bulbs go in first. "We plant tulips 8 to 12 inches deep so the bulbs won't be teased by the sun into early growth," McVay says. Then she and Mason overplant with the pansies. To sustain the annuals through spring, they're fed with a granular, slow-release fertilizer at planting time and are watered two to three times a month during dry spells (usually in January and February). "The commitment pays off with a great display that lasts into June," McVay says.

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