Don’t panic; while the time for fall bulb planting is fast approaching, there’s still time to do all those fall garden chores: digging potatoes and picking tomatoes, cutting back iris and peonies and digging some herb plants to bring inside. But if you haven’t ordered bulbs, it’s nearly past the time to do that or to pick some up at nursery centers before they disappear. This means you should be giving some thought to what you actually want to plant.

I had the uneasy memory that last spring’s bulbs looked wrong in the garden, so I looked back at photos I shot with my phone (a resource that can’t be overemphasized for garden planning) and, yes, there they were: a too perfect border of nothing but plain yellow King Alfred daffodils, standing tall and lonely in early May. Other daffodil varieties I planted were apparently much later blooming, so the daffodils were on their own, sunny yellow blossoms in a sea of brown soil edged by a few clumps of bronzy ajuga. A few weeks later some tulips and other narcissus varieties would began to bloom, along with the blue spikes of ajuga flowers, but that first showing was sad and embarrassing.

At least I know where I stand. I need some smaller, naturalizing bulbs to set off the taller yellow blooms. Squills, chinodoxia and grape hyacinths all share some of the positive characteristics of daffodils and other narcissi. They’re winter-hardy, multiply quickly, and deer and rodents don’t bother them, an important factor here in chipmunk central. Siberian squill bulbs produce multiple stems, each topped with several cobalt-blue flowers that resemble little parasols. Just four inches tall, these squills multiply in two ways: by seed and by bulb offsets. Over time, a few handfuls of bulbs can grow into a carpet of blue flowers. As a companion to my lonely daffodils, squills would be perfect, because they bloom at about the same time as crocuses and early daffodils. An added bonus is that the plant’s foliage fades away quickly after flowering, so you don’t have to cover it up with later plantings.

Chinodoxia, also known as Glory of the Snow, since it is one of spring’s early bloomers, has up to ten star-shaped, six-petaled clustered flowers with bright white centers atop dark stems with sparse, narrow foliage. The blossoms range from blue and lavender through pink and white. If chinodoxia is happy where it’s planted, it too naturalizes by bulb offsets (called bulbils: baby bulbs on the sides of the mother bulb) and sometimes by self-sowing seed.

Grape hyacinths have both a grape-like form and sweet, grapey fragrance. The most commonly found are cobalt-blue, but other varieties can range in color from periwinkle, sapphire, and cerulean blue to pale wisteria and even white. Plant a selection and you’ll have a display that runs throughout April and May. Grape hyacinths range from 4 to 12 inches in height, depending on the variety.

Once grape hyacinths are established in the garden, they send up leaves in the fall. If you’ve forgotten just where you planted bulbs in previous seasons, in future years you’ll be able to find them because the muscari foliage shows up starting in late August. This prevents those annoying moments when you start digging a hole for some new bulbs and slice through an established one. If you’re mulching your beds, don’t cover grape hyacinth foliage until the ground surface freezes.

While pest-proof daffodils and smaller bulbs that multiply over the years are always a good choice for early spring, there are early-blooming tulips that can be tossed into the mix. Even small splashes of tulips’ candy-box colors can light up the grey days of April in the Northeast. If you don’t count on tulips to return for more than a couple of years, or even treat them as an annual, pulling them up should you decide not to deal with straggly foliage once bloom time is over, they’re well worth the money spent. I realized, after looking at my garden photos, that I’d planted only mid-season Darwins and Triumph tulip varieties. For early color I should have selected from early, double early, Emperor, Kaufmanniana and Greigii varieties. Fosteriana tulips, also known as Emperor tulips, are the first large-flowered tulips to bloom each spring. This makes them ideal companions for daffodils. They have jumbo flowers on sturdy, 16-inch stems. Single early tulips have big blossoms with a classic tulip shape and also bloom during the peak of daffodil season. They are about 10 to 14 inches tall. Double early tulips have lots of extra petals that give the flowers a rose-like form. They are a little shorter than other tulips, generally about a foot tall. In addition to being early to bloom, Greigii tulips are known for their marked and mottled foliage. Some Greigii blooms have brilliant two-tone shades and they have a wide range of heights, from 8 to 20 inches, depending on the variety. Kaufmannianas, also known as Water Lily tulips, like Greigii, often have mottled foliage, but they’re low-growing, perfect for rock gardens and mixing with the smaller bulb plantings. All open fully on sunny days to reveal multi-colored interiors. They can even naturalize when left undisturbed in a good spot. If you want to invest in these tulip bulbs, here’s a final tip from a bulb expert. To keep deer, moles, voles, etc., from snacking on the bulbs, she soaks the bulbs in a mix of 1⁄4 cup liquid Lysol to three gallons water. A quick soak is plenty, then spread the bulbs out to dry before planting. It all may seem like a lot of work now, but when that spring display gladdens your heart, your hard work will have paid off.