the dirt

Color up your Landscape with Flowering Bulbs

Crocus in lawn

Now is the best time to plant bulbs (corms, rhizomes, tuberous roots) in early fall when the soil is warm and root systems can begin to get established. Don’t wait for bulbs to go on sale at your local nursery when the stock has been picked over and the ideal planting time has come and gone. Here are several easy and effective ways to use bulbs to enhance your landscape.

Blend bulbs with groundcovers and lawns.
Spring flowers look great against the dark green leaves of vinca, pachysandra and epimedium. For an early spring surprise plant crocus patches in your lawn;  hold off mowing until after the crocus bulbs have entered dormancy and your lawn will be covered in crocus the following year.

Perennial pairings
Bulbs are perfect companions with perennials and ornamental grasses. I like to use smaller type bulbs; when the flower fades the foliage can be tucked under or hidden by the emerging perennial.   A great combination is the pairing of ornamental grasses with daffodils; they have similarly shaped foliage but different “show times:” when one is leaving the scene, the other is emerging commanding attention and camouflaging the slow exit of the earlier scene stealer.  There is an extra benefit to pairing bulbs with perennials: when spring flowering bulbs go dormant in the summer, they prefer dry shade, which perennials, such as peonies, hosta, daylilies, irises, asters and panicum are ready to offer.

Flowering bulb - lily

Natural bulbs with shrubs and trees
Some of my favorite combos are: Flowering cherry, dogwood or redbud with daffodils; grape hyacinths with rose shrubs. Remember bulbs have early, mid and late blooming varieties so you can arrange flowering combinations with your existing planting scheme.

Plant bulbs for full summer color
Use tender/non-hardy bulbs such as dahlias and caladiums that flower the entire summer to enhance your perennials, which typically bloom for only three weeks. These plantings have the kind of allure that entices people to step outside even in the hottest months.

Purple and white pansies in a potDress up hardscapes
To enliven patios, decks and pathways, I plant bulbs in containers of all sizes and shapes and place them around outdoor rooms and walkways.  Pot tulips with pansies for a knock-out combination. The pansies, planted in fall will give you three seasons of bloom, lasting through the winter (a little wilted, but alive) and exploding in spring. Couple that with tulips, and you have multi-tiered color come springtime. As much as we humans love to grow tulips, deer and squirrel love to eat them. Containerizing your tulips will help ensure that you get to enjoy the tulip bulbs you’ve shopped for and lovingly planted.

About Missy Jones

Missy Jones, owner of Architectural Gardens, is a Master Watershed Steward in Anne Arundel County. Since growing up on the Severn River watershed, her passion is to help save the bay and educate homeowners about conservation landscaping, thus reducing the negative impact of stormwater runoff. Landscaping is in her blood: Missy’s father owned a landscaping company in the Annapolis area and she’s been gardening ever since she learned to walk. Call Missy for a consult, 800.280.2103, and let’s get started.
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