Though it's too early for fall planting, it is definitely not too early for fall planning. In fact, a few bulbs should be ordered soon if they are to be planted at the right time.
These bulbs are the fall-flowering crocus and colchicums, which should go in the ground early in September. These little bulbs will not make a big show, so plant them where they cannot be missed, though they'll have little competition from other plants when they flower in October and November.
My favorite place is between steppingstones, and my favorite crocus for this spot is Crocus goulimyi . I planted several last Sept. 10 and they were in full flower from just before Thanksgiving until the middle of December.
Full is relative here because the flowers are only about 2 to 3 inches tall. But if you plant them close enough together, they do make a show. I planted in tight little clumps of several bulbs, leaving several inches between the clumps. (The bulbs were buried about 2 inches deep.)
Crocus goulimyi is a relative newcomer to horticulture, being described for the first time in 1955. It is found growing in the wild at the foot of rocks and walls in southern Greece on the Mani Peninsula. It will come back year after year if not drowned by summer watering (make the soil half sand to insure good drainage), and actually increases by offsets. The leaves are a trifle long (enough to trip over) so I cut them back to about 6 or 8 inches, and it doesn't seem to mind.
The bulbs, naturally, are next to impossible to find at nurseries, but there is at least one mail-order source--John Scheepers, RD 6, Phillipsburg Road, Middletown, N.Y. 10940; (914) 342-1135.
Scheepers also sells a great variety of the larger, autumn-flowering colchicums (which I don't grow anymore because the snails so relish the bulbs) and several other autumn-flowering crocus, including one I tried for the first time last year, Crocus speciousus var. Aitchisoni, which was a tremendous success (though I don't know if it will return).
Fall is also the time to plant those basic components of a landscape, like trees and shrubs. To help with your planning, there is a newly revised book that should be on every serious gardener's shelf. "With more than 770 color photographs," according the jacket, "Trees and Shrubs for Temperate Climates" by former California nurseryman Gordon Courtright is the perfect companion for the Sunset Western Garden Book. It illustrates what Sunset describes. For the most part the photographs are taken from far enough away so that, although less aesthetically pleasing, they show you what shape the plant grows into, which makes planning a garden all the easier.
If your bookstore doesn't have it, call (800) 327-5680 or write to Timber Press, 9999 S.W. Wilshire, Portland, Ore. 97225.
What else can you do to prepare for fall? Shop. If you're thinking of planting any trees or shrubs, this is a good time to buy them because the nurseries are well stocked. Just be sure to keep your purchases watered daily in their containers until mid-September or early October, when they can be planted in the ground. Keep them in a little shade, out of the midday sun.