Spring Flowering Bulbs by Design

About now the deciduous trees are coloring up nicely and the squirrels having been busy burying nuts (probably in your container gardens—just where you don’t want them) since last month. But, in my garden, it’s not officially fall until I can begin to plant spring-blooming bulbs. That’s usually about mid-October.

That is the perfect time to integrate bulbs in to my designs for clients. Interesting bulbs are readily available from suppliers, and it’s easy to dig. I also like to sneak bulbs into potted gardens to provide an early spring surprise after a long winter.

You’ll find a wide choice of bulbs to add color your spring garden. Snow drops (Galanthus) will bloom as early as late January and some varieties of tulips bloom as late as May. Allium finish blooming in June. If you plan well, choosing the right bulbs to create a sequence, you can enjoy a non-stop show from late winter through spring. This is not hard to do. Because different species of bulbs need to be planted at different depths, you can easily plant multiple types of bulbs in layers, in the ground or in large pots. I look forward to seeing masses of crocus, daffodils and narcissus that have naturalized and grown into tight clumps that get fuller by the year.

Keep in mind that some bulbs, such as tulips, aren’t as persistent — they may thrive for two or three years and then it will be time to plant more of them. There are also areas where I like start with a fresh palette each year. In the summer, when those bulbs are through, I give them to neighbors or plant them somewhere else.  I plant  summer blooming annuals in their place until it’s time to plant the newbulbs for the fall. (I’ll talk about seasonal color rotations in another blog post.)

Designing with Bulbs

For smaller gardens, try planting clumps of like varieties and complimentary combinations with varying heights. For larger gardens, a drift of all one type of bulb—in a single color—is stunning. On hillsides or woodland gardens, bulbs can be planted in bands to suggest the flow of a stream or in other patterns, such as sequences or gradations of color.

Some of my favorite bulbs include:

  • Tulipa batalinii ‘Bright Gem’, with its delicate sulphur-yellow petals blushed with warm orange
  • The ‘Black Parrot’ tulip—a velvety purple-black heirloom parrot tulip
  • Tulipa ‘Apricot Impression’—a  giant Darwin Tulip with smoldering tangerine-orange, nasturtium-red and pink persimmon with an interior yellow-edged black base
  • The ‘Pheasant’s Eye’ poeticus narcissus, with large, reflexed white petals and a small yellow cup edged in orange-red with a green eye

A cautionary note: Your bulbs will not do well in hard, compacted soil and will not tolerate muddy or saturated soil for any length of time. Some bulbs will do well in pots if the soil is light and the drainage is very good. Pots should be raised off surfaces with hidden feet or trivets to provide air circulation and drainage.

I hope these tips help keep you motivated to be out in yard as the weather turns cool or at least inspire you to go to your favorite nursery to see what’s available.

If you need help planning your fall garden or developing a comprehensive plan for your landscape, contact me for a design consultation. I’m always here to help and love to hear from you about your garden successes.

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Living Decor

conifer arrangementConsidering holiday decorating with the greens from your garden? A client asked me for some suggestions this year, and I thought I’d share them with all of you.

Evergreen conifer arrangements, like the holidays themselves, add sparkle to the shortest, darkest days of the year. And even if you are taking a year off from the holiday cheer, you can celebrate the winter solstice.

Evergreens are the natural garden resource for decorating in the winter. Winter greens can be used almost anywhere inside or out (as long as you keep them away from flames). If you have a garden, a trip outside with a pair of clippers will get you started.

Your evergreen conifer arrangements can be as simple as arranging a collection of cut branches in a small vase or as ambitious as crafting a wreath. However, your evergreen arrangements need not look typically traditional. Few of my ideas include red bows, gold foil, faux fur or candy canes.

A door swag is easy to make, and what better way to greet guests than with the smell of freshly cut pine? I use boughs I collect when doing my regular winter pruning. All you need  is a few branches and some wire to secure the stems and make a wire loop for hanging. Evergreen conifer cuttings will stay fresh much longer outdoors but they are heavenly indoors as well where you can see them up close and enjoy the scents.

If you are in the mood and have a little time, consider making evergreen arrangements to give as gifts as well as for your own enjoyment. I made this 30-inch-tall arrangement in about 20 minutes, including cutting the branches. A great gift — and no Internet or phone ordering required!

Add interest to your evergreen arrangements by using a variety of colors and textures. Some of my favorite evergreens include:small pine arrangement

  • Chamaecyparis obtusa – Hinoki Cypress
  • Cedrus atlantica (Glauca Group) – Blue Atlas Cedar
  • Cupressus arizonica ‘Blue Ice’ – Blue Ice Arizona Cypress
  • Cuppressus x leylandii ‘Gold Rider’ – Gold Rider Leyland Cypress
  • Taxus baccata – English Yew (many varieties have berries)

For dramatic contrast, add bare twigs or a broadleaf evergreen like Laurus nobilis – Sweet Bay.

All of these plants and trees are attractive in a winter landscape. When critiquing your garden this winter — with an eye to making improvements in the spring — consider some of these plants (and their dwarf forms, for smaller gardens). They look great all year long and require little maintenance or water once established.

Contact us to learn more about garden planning, landscape design, and fall planting.




Conifers in Containers

Dwarf HinokiThe change of seasons presents opportunities for dramatic new container garden compositions. Dwarf conifers can be the perfect pick-me-up for sparse-looking containers.

You’ll find that conifers are durable and easy to grow. They need little care and most dwarf conifers grow so slowly that they can thrive for years before outgrowing their spaces.

Conifers come in an array  of dramatic shapes, colors, and complex textures. Colors range from blue and green to yellow and even white variegation. There are dense, compact conifers shaped like globes or buns, ones with luxurious, fern-like foliage that curves and twists, and others with delicate needles that weep and drape. Some conifers look soft and fluffy while others sport stiff, sturdy needles. Whatever shapes or colors you choose, you’ll find that conifers really “pop” against winter skies and glow in the beams of accent lighting.

Dwarf conifers are readily available in most nurseries at this time of year, so now is a great time to update the pots on your patio.

Some of my favorite mini conifers include:Dwarf Conifer

Chamacyparis obtusa ‘Minama’ – Minima Hinoki Cypress. A compact mound with rich, dark-green spray-like foliage dotted with grass-green new growth.

Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘White Pygmy’ – White Pygmy Dwarf False Cypress. A petite cushion of soft yellow-green sprays of needles.

Tsuga canadensis ‘Minuta’ – Minuta Canadian Hemlock. A tight-mounding cushion with a tiny version of the needles of the giant Canadian Hemlock.

Dwarf and mid-size conifers are also wonderful garden specimens that add evergreen structure to the winter garden and take center stage in the dormant season.

Contact us to learn more about garden planning, landscape design, and fall planting.