Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Posted By: in Bulbs

Bulb DesignGone are the days for straight soldierly rows of single variety bulbs…unless you are colour blocking for some intricate design. If you take a page out of Mother nature’s book you’ll notice drifts and groupings of flowers.

Similarly, plant your bulbs in drifts and groupings. Layer your varieties with similar bloom times to create stunning spring focal points. Here are some tricks of the trade to help you design like a pro.

Here are a few bulb basics…

from some questions we get about bulbs frequently at the nursery:

3 Times The Height if the Bulb

  • In general, we plant them three times the depth of the bulb.
  • If you accidently plant them upside down, don’t worry. Bulbs will find the surface. They’ll just take a tiny bit longer. If you are not sure which end is up…every gardener has one of these days, plant it on it’s side.
  • Drainage, drainage, drainage. Whether planting bulbs in pots or in the ground, excellent drainage is essential!!
  • Fertilizer goes into the planting hole…bulb food or bonemeal will do nicely.
  • Do not cut back the leaves or tie or fold. The leaves are using photosynthesis to create food to store in the bulb which is responsible for next years bloom. Anything that will interfere with photosynthesis will interfere with next years bloom. You can cut, fold, pleat and even weave the leaves if you fancy once they’ve yellowed. This means they are finished producing food…unless they are yellowing before they’ve even bloomed if this is happening refer back to the drainage line.
  • A great digging spade is all you need to plant most of the time. I do not dig individual holes. I just dig a wide hole and usually just pour the bulbs right in after the fertilizer. A bulb trowel is another option if you prefer.

Bulb Fertilizers

Here are some design tips and tricks:

When creating your fall and winter planters, don’t forget to tuck in some Crocus bulbs or tiny Narcissi, they are fully hardy and will be a wonderful surprise in late winter/early spring.

You can layer bulbs by putting the larger ones on the bottom and the smaller ones on the top.  Daffodils and Grape Hyacinth are a classic example.  The blues and yellows make an eye catching combo.  Remember to choose bulbs with smaller strappy foliage when combining with the smaller ones.  Last year I used tulips and smaller muscari and I had to lift up the great big leaves of the tulips I chose to even see the little muscarii…lesson learned.

Daffodils and Muscari

Create a big drift of bulbs around the base of a large leaved perennial like a hosta for instance.  This way the leaves of the hosta will grow up to cover the spent foliage of the bulbs.

If you want to extend the bloom time of the bulbs in a container, plant some deeper than the others.   I wanted a massed planter of red tulips and I wanted it to last for at least a month.  I planted some of the bulbs twice as deep as they should be and then added soil and another layer, soil and the final layer.  The bulbs closest to the surface came up first, then the next row and then the next.  I had neighbours asking me what variety they were because they’d lasted so long.

You can mix varieties will similar bloom times and you can mix different colours of the same bulbs you can even use the bulb layering technique above with graduated colours so it looks like your white tulibs start getting pink and then deep rose…you get the picture. 

Just try not to mix parrot type tulips with the regulars.  The parrot tulips carry a virus that allowed them to have their interesting colour streaking.  It doesn’t look so good on the regulars though.  For those of you who are designed challenged in this area there are combo packages made up for you!

Squirrels!  Mine have exquisite taste.  To avoid feeding them your bulbs, you can plant a particularly stinky bulb for them  - the Frittilaria. 

Fritillaria

It’s actually a lovely looking flower and if you plant some among your groupings their stink will hide the smell of the tastier bulbs.  You can also add large squares of chicken wire over your plantings and then cover with mulch so you don’t have to look at it.

So, get out there, be daring and have fun!!  My neighbour up the street planted a heart out of crocus bulbs in the lawn…so romantic.  Hope it worked out.  Don’t forget to send me a picture :)

P.S. dont forget about Surrey Memorial Hospitals Tulips for Tomorrow fundraising campaign. Drop by Art's Nursery and pick up a pack or two. $10 bucks get you 10 Princess Irene Tulips with all proceeds going to the hospital.

Laurelle Olfdord-Down

Laurelle Olfdord-Down

Laurelle is a certified horticulturalist and Landscape designer. She is currently an up and coming apple guru, growing over 120 cultivars which explains her passion for edible garden design. Laurelle works part time for Art’s Nursery. You can also interact with her through Art’s monthly newsletter, our blog and our gardening channel on YouTube.


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Art's Nursery is a 10+ acre retail and wholesale garden centre located in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. We've been in business at this same location since 1973 and we're proud to serve you today!

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