Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Spring Bulbs, Part Deux.

My previous post covered the 'backbone' bulbs, the smaller varieties that naturalize well and form nice low clumps of flowers.  Now we can look at some of the bigger bulbs that make more of an individual statement.  These look great in nice clumps, but not in such great quantities.  The contrasting colors of the species Tulips are wonderful at breaking up large waves of blue Scilla or Muscari.  Yellow or pale Daffodils in small clumps breaking up groups of blue Scilla, make them stand out even more.

While 500 or a 1,000 of the smaller bulbs blend to form waves of color, 50 or 100 of the following bulbs will have a wonderful impact.  Maybe some more of the species Tulip because they are a little smaller.

Following are a selection of SOME of my favorite accent bulbs.  Click the links to see more about them.  Try some, you have nothing to lose.  From my experience, unless you have multiple acres, try to focus on fewer different types to maximize the effect.  I believe that repeated groupings of similar bulbs provides a more dramatic and cohesive feel.  But...that doesn't mean you can't try your own thing and experiment.

Everyone knows the Daffodil, but there are so many species, colors, heights, shapes.  The classic trumpet Daffodil, like the pictured Mt Hood, is so easily recognized.  The Poeticus on the other hand has a tiny contrasting cup with wonderful fragrance.  Then the Triandrus have drooping heads and great fragrance.  Daffodils are the accent mark in the garden, and planted in groups of 5, 7, 9+ provide nice tall contrast among other bulbs.  Though not all Daffodils are tall, there are some neat small and dwarf varieties.

Daffodils are the quintessential spring bulb and there are hundreds of different types and color of daffodils.  I prefer to pick three or four different daffodils (same type) in different colors and similar size that flower from the early to late part of the daffodil season, and mix them together in groups from 9-15 or more.  The result in the Spring is a clump of daffodils that seems to always be flowering.  A favorite mix includes the three trumpets below:  Mt Hood, Marieke and Spellbinder.  There are some times when they are all flowering together, and they form a nice grouping of similar flowers and heights of different colors.  This strategy works well with all the other types of daffodils like Poeticus, Triandrus and Jonquil.

Daffodils will do best in full sun, but they can tolerate some shade.  Cut off the spent flower stalks to help neaten them and to regenerate for the next season.   More than most bulbs, they need their leaves to absorb sunlight to regenerate after flowering, so just tuck them into the surrounding plants as they grow in during the season, and cut them back in mid-Summer when they turn yellow.

Mt Hood-Trumpet
Thalia-Fragrant Triandrus
@Van Engelen

Flower Record-Large Cupped
@Van Engelen


Lemon Beauty-Split Cup
@Van Engelen

Species Tulip
I feel that these are one of the lesser known jewels of the Spring bulbs.  Their colors can be so bold and refreshing that they can mix beautifully with the purples, blues and whites of the backbone bulbs.  I generally and not a fan or the larger, more common, tulip because the squirrels and other varmint love to eat them, they don't naturalize very well and I just don't think they are particularly attractive unless you plant them in groups of 100's.  Their smaller brethren are great naturalizers and do great in groupings.

Beware that critters do like these bulbs too.  The best trick I use in areas where there are active bulb-eaters is to place chicken wire over these planted bulbs so they can't reach them.  Pick a grade of chicken wire wide enough that the plants can grow through.  I will go into this in greater detail when I post in the fall on planting bulbs.

These bulbs do best in full to mostly full sun.

Species Tulip bakeri
Lillac Wonder
@Van Engelen
Species Tulip clusiana
@Van Engelen

Species Tulip linifolia
@Van Engelen

I often seem to change my mind on the Alliums or Onions.  They can be great bold additions to the early season perennial bed, but sometimes in large groupings I think they are a little tacky.  The Allium azureum,  atropurpureum,  sphaerocephalon are great smaller flowers that naturalize and are great late season additions, but 'Pinball Wizard' is a crazy 8" ball of lilac purple.  It is a more compact plant than others, but still just to he far side of ostentatious.

Like the daffodils, they need full sun to stand tall and the critters don't like them.  Give them a try in your perennial beds for some bold early color with your other early flowers.

Allium azureum
@Van Engelen

Allium-Pinball Wizard
@Van Engelen

What a great name for a plant, I think the name says it all.  You only need a few of the bigger ones for an impact, and with bulbs the size of baseballs you don't want to be planting to many of these 8" down.  These are two of my favorites, but the melagris species is a great small naturalizer that needs a little more shade.

Like the Daffodil and Allium, critters don't like these and they need a nice sunny spot.  Try a few of these big late season bulbs for fun.

Fritillaria persica
'Ivory Bells'
Fritillaria assyriaca

Be sure to order up your bulbs soon, because come September and October, there will be limited supplies and many of the nicer bulbs will be sold out. As mentioned in my earlier post, for little money you can add a whole new layer and season to your gardens for a relatively small price.  In October, I will post on easy and efficient ways to plant bulbs and what care they need.

1 comment:

  1. Tulipa 'Fusilier' is a great species tulip if you love red.