How to Plan a Spring Bulb Garden
It’s easy to plant a bag of daffodils or a few dozen tulips. But if you want a spring bulb garden that blooms for months rather than weeks, it requires a little more planning. Here are six ways to elevate your spring flower garden from good to GREAT.
Pick a Color Theme
Interior designers usually work with a color palette – a selection of colors chosen to give a room or a home a particular look, mood or style. This technique is equally effective in gardens and landscapes.
Spring bulbs offer so many creative opportunities to play with color. Limiting yourself to a single color scheme is simple and always has a big impact. You could also build your design around a pair of colors such as pink and white, red and yellow or orange and purple. Another approach is to use the color wheel and choose a harmony of several related colors, such as pink, lavender, burgundy and purple, or cream, yellow, orange and red.
Include Different Bloom Times
The spring bulb season can stretch for as long as 8-10 weeks. The key is to plant a few types of bulbs from each bloom time: early, midseason and late season. This way you’ll have flowers in bloom for as long as possible.
Begin the season with snowdrops and crocus, followed by early daffodils, early tulips and hyacinths. Next comes mid-season tulips, most daffodils and muscari. To close out the season, plant late daffodils, late tulips, and alliums. For details, check out our Bloom Time Chart for Spring and Summer Bulbs.
Plant Bulbs in Groups
Spring bulbs look best when the plantings are generous and the bulbs are spaced just a few inches apart. Small bulbs such as scilla or chionodoxa should be planted in groups of at least 25 bulbs. Tulips look best in groups of a dozen or more bulbs. Daffodils and alliums can be planted in threes, though groups of 7 or 9 bulbs look even better.
Repeat Shapes and Colors
Gardens are more pleasing and cohesive when the same plant or grouping of plants appears in multiple locations. Our eyes connect these similar shapes or colors into one scene rather than a collection of separate elements. In a formal setting, bulbs can be planted in squares, rectangles or circles. For a more natural or informal look, use ovals, triangles, kidney shapes or a free-form shape that fits the site.
Plant Both Annual and Perennial Bulbs
Many spring bulbs, including daffodils, scilla, chionodoxa, muscari and some alliums can be considered perennials. They bloom the first spring after planting and then return to bloom again every spring. Most of these bulbs will also multiply over time.
Tulips and hyacinths are usually treated as annuals because they always put on their best show the first year. With the right growing conditions (full sun, well drained soil, hot, dry summers), tulips and hyacinths may re-bloom for several years, but you can expect the size of the flowers to gradually decline. To guarantee a fabulous display of spring color, it’s best to treat these bulbs as annuals and plant a fresh batch every fall.
Purchase Large, High Quality Bulbs
When you are shopping for flower bulbs, keep in mind that there’s usually a relationship between price and bulb size. At harvest time, flower bulbs are graded by size. The largest bulbs fetch a premium price because they contain more energy to fuel plant growth and flower development. Though the biggest bulbs may be slightly more expensive than smaller ones, they will give you bigger and/or more abundant blooms.
Keep in mind that small flowers such as crocus and scilla, naturally have smaller bulbs than tulips or daffodils. Certain varieties also produce smaller bulbs than other varieties. And there can be size variations from one year to another, depending on growing conditions.
For best results, purchase your flower bulbs from a reliable supplier, and store them in a cool, dry place until the proper planting time for your growing zone.