While much of the focus on temple gardens will be directed at downtown Salt Lake City this weekend, many other beautiful Utah temples are focusing on creating beautiful spring gardens.

North of Temple Square is the Bountiful Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

While its landscape is not as extensive as the downtown properties, it, like all the other edifices, is spectacular in its own right.

To the west, the grounds offer a panoramic view of the Great Salt Lake and the sweeping vista shows views of several counties. To the east, the mountains rise steeply to form a perfect backdrop when viewed from the valley.

Since 1994, Bruce Bennett, grounds supervisor, has lovingly tended these gardens.

"I really got started in this profession when I worked for the grounds department at Brigham Young University," he said. "I got a degree in horticulture and also a degree in landscape design."

He draws on his expertise gained from many years in the nursery and landscaping business. He knows which plants to select and how to plant and care for those that adorn the gardens he tends.

In May, I took some pictures of his wonderful spring gardens (which he planted the previous fall) because it is impossible to show their beauty right now.

Here are some of his suggestions for spectacular spring gardens.

"As you know we have to plant these in the fall. This year we will start tearing out the summer flowers on Tuesday right after General Conference. We have many volunteer youth groups come in and take out the annuals and the perennials we know won't survive."

"We take everything out and then till the beds and add fertilizer, either 16-16-16 or 16-16-8. We also add organic matter at that time. We do not use bone meal, although some people do. Then we plant the bulbs and the pansies at the same time."

For those who plan on picking up their bulbs in the next month or two, he explains his crew's process.

"We do our bulb designs more than a year in advance. We ordered our bulbs last year (2009), so we already know what we are going to plant this fall.

"I do the layout myself, and then the volunteers come in and plant them where I place them. I put them out according to the color schemes that I have already designed. Each year we plant 17,000 bulbs and 10,000 pansies," he said.

Part of what make the gardens at this temple unique is the elevation difference between it and the Salt Lake Temple. While the base meridian at the corner of the Temple Square wall is 4,327 feet above sea level, Bennett said the elevation at Bountiful is closer to 5,000 feet.

For that reason, he uses plants he knows will survive. His mix of specimens to plant now and then overwinter includes pansies and violas and proven hyacinth, tulip and daffodil bulbs. Many plants just won't survive the winters in this location, and in spite of their efforts, getting everything to survive is a challenge.

"Our worst scenario is a dry, snowless winter. The pansies don't mind the snow, but they do mind the dry, cold, blowing winds," he said.

"We also do not use row covers like they sometimes use at Temple Square because they are impossible to keep on with our windy conditions."

Bennett has some great suggestions for favorite bulbs to make striking color combinations.

"I like to use combine 'Pink Diamond' with the almost black 'Queen of the Night.'

"Other favorite tulips are a kaufmanniana tulip called 'Heart's Delight' with a pointed bud that is red on the outside and the petals lay out flat when they are in full bloom. I use many of the Triumph tulips, including 'Rhapsody in Pink' and 'Rosalie,' and I also like the double tulip 'Angelique,' which is a late bloomer."

His preferred hyacinths include a new white cultivar called "Polar Giant." He also likes "Blue Eyes," "Blue Jacket" and a pink one called "Woodstock."

Daffodils are not selected by cultivars but are grown from mixed selections. He plants them outside the fences because the deer massacre any other flowers he puts there, but they leave the daffodils alone because they are poisonous.

Bennett's final choices are the pansies and violas.

"I like the solid or clear-faced pansies. There are lots of them out there. I use the Colossus mix, which has a large flower with a blotch, and the Delta mix, which has many pure colors, including white, red blue and yellow."

Follow his lead and buy your bulbs now. Inter-plant pansies and any other flowers you plan to add this fall and get them in the ground. Next spring's payoff will be your spectacular spring gardens.

The Bountiful Temple is located at 640 Bountiful Blvd., Bountiful. The grounds are open Tuesday-Saturday, 6 a.m.-8 p.m., and Sundays, 1 p.m.-dusk, weather permitting.

Larry A. Sagers is a horticulture specialist for the Utah State University Extension Service at Thanksgiving Point.