Allen Wilson is a Vancouver gardening specialist. Email Allen Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We live in a new home with a nice landscape, but it does not have any spring flowering bulbs. Could you give us some ideas on where and how to add bulbs to our landscape?
Spring flowering bulbs make a nice addition to any landscape. Most bulbs keep coming up year after year without replanting. Bulbs like to grow in locations with at least a half day of sunshine. However, they grow quite well under deciduous trees that do not yet have leaves when the bulbs are growing and blooming.
Bulbs look quite nice with shrubs as background. If there is not already space in front of shrub plantings, I like to create a minimum of 3 feet of space for bulbs and other flowers. I also plant bulbs where I have other flowers planted. As soon as I remove annual flowers such as petunias and marigolds in the fall, I plant bulbs. I place them between and around perennial flowers. They add color before the perennials have made much growth.
Bulbs look best in clusters rather than single-file rows. I seldom plant fewer than five bulbs in a cluster. More is better. I usually plant single colors rather than mixtures. I sometimes plant two or three kinds of bulbs together arranged according to blooming height.
Naturalizing is an interesting way to plant bulbs. It is done most in informal, low-maintenance landscape situations where grass is sometimes allowed to grow with infrequent mowing. Bulbs will come up through grass and bloom.
Bulb leaves should not be mowed until a month after bloom, or they will not have time to make and store food for next year’s bulbs.
There are other applications of naturalizing that can be applied to the typical home landscape. Bulbs will also come up quite well through ground covers. I have planted bulbs in ajuga, creeping potentilla, veronica and sedum. Simply make a hole with a hand trowel for each bulb. The ground-cover plants will soon cover the holes, and the bulbs will come right through the ground cover next spring
I had a neighbor who had a very attractive naturalized bulb bed in a cluster of aspen trees. She had planted both early- and late-flowering bulbs throughout the area. Crocus, snowdrops and scilla were the first wave of bloom. They were followed by several kinds of daffodils. Then tulips and grape hyacinths bloomed in mid-spring. A few perennial flowers were scattered in this area to continue the color into summer. She did not allow grass to grow in this area.
Daffodils are my favorite fall-planted bulb. They are tough and resistant to everything, including deer. They multiply, so in a few years, you can dig and spread them over a larger area or give them to friends.
Hyacinths are another favorite of mine because of their sweet fragrance. I plant them near an entrance or other areas that I pass by frequently. I prefer some of the shorter tulips because they are less likely to be damaged by wind.
Although bulbs can be planted from now until late December, I like to buy my bulbs early, when the selection is best.
Bulbs are sold in many different stores, but the best selection is usually found at full-service nurseries and garden stores. Two of my favorite online sources are Holland Bulb Farms (hollandbulbfarms.com) and K. van Bourgondien (dutchbulbs.com).