Garden Design: Bulb Planting Guide

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In areas that endure cold winter temperatures, gardeners patiently wait in anticipation for the day that colorful spring flowers will be flourishing in their garden. In warm winter climates, some gardeners are lucky enough to have blooming landscapes all year around. No matter what the climate is where you live, there’s no better way to add color to your garden than by designing bulbs into your landscape.

Bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes are all nature’s way of storing food reserves in small, round containers where life rests until conditions invite plant life up into the sunlight. For convenience, I’ll call them all bulbs for now, and these little dormant plants contain a wealth of color for your garden.

Designing with bulbs is easy because you can plan where you’d like to plant them before you actually bury them. Plan to plant taller-growing bulbs toward the back of your garden and shorter ones in the front. Of course, you can mix things up if you want to experiment with varying the height of the plants in your landscape.

Some bulbs are strongly scented, especially certain varieties of oriental lilies and freesias. Other bulbs bloom into flowers with intricate petal formations, such as tulips, daffodils, lilies and dahlias. These bulbs are perfect for flower arrangements. If you want to plant flowers for bouquets, you can design a cutting garden that won’t form an important part of your overall landscape design. Alternatively, you can integrate flowers you intend to cut into the main flower border. In either case, plant bulbs where the loss of clipped flowers will not disturb the overall beauty of your landscape.

Many bulbs contain remarkably showy flowers, however, these bulbs don’t usually have a very long blooming period. Design bulbs in groups to make a statement or, if you want them to look like natural drifts, toss them so they scatter naturally and plant them where they fall. You can naturalize small bulbs under trees or at the edges of your lawn for an even more natural look. You can even organize bulbs like tulips or daffodils into patterns. If you’re lacking planting space, pop bulbs into pots instead.

Grow bulbs to showcase beautiful blooms, to add a bit of color to your garden or to add foliage to areas where flowers are lacking. You can even plant edible bulbs like onions and garlic in your garden. Plant them in the vegetable garden or slip them into the flower garden and harvest them when they are big, juicy and ready for the kitchen!

Photo credits: Jane Gates

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