For me, if there is anything that means fall is really here, it’s planting bulbs.
It’s not too late to plant spring bulbs. In fact, in the Pacific Northwest bulbs can be planted well into November. And you’ll find they are readily available in nurseries and garden centers.
With bulbs, you can enjoy spring flowers in a multitude of types and sizes. These range from tiny species Crocus (less than 3 inches tall) to Allium (Ornamental Onion) that can reach nearly 4 feet. When it comes to color, the possibilities are nearly endless. Options range from bold and contrasting to elegant and monochromatic.
In small gardens, I suggest planting bulbs of the same type in small clumps, and achieving variety using different types of bulbs. That way the clumps will be complimentary when they bloom and your garden won’t risk looking too busy.
Another approach is to plant a drift of the same type of bulb in a single color. If your space allows, bulbs can be planted to create intricate patterns and combinations. For a natural appearance on a hillside or in a woodland garden, try to copy the undulating flow of a stream or other landscape feature by planting bulbs in bands.
If you’re putting bulbs in containers, try the “bulb lasagna” planting technique: layer bulbs so that they will flower in succession throughout the bloom season.
Keep in mind that Snow Drops bloom as early as late January and some varieties of Tulips bloom in May with Allium finishing up as late as June. With thoughtful planning it is possible to have bulbs flowering throughout spring so there is no down time before the first perennials start to bloom. If you enjoy having your garden in continuous bloom throughout the seasons, bulbs are an important part of a comprehensive landscape plan.
Looking for ideas? Here are three of my favorite bulbs:
- Early-blooming double tulip ‘Monsella’, with fragrant bright canary yellow flowers with red flames
- Peony-flowering tulip ‘Blue Spectacle’, with rich deep violet-purple flowers with a blue sheen and a form that resembles that of peony
- Small cupped Narcissi ‘Dreamlight’. It’s white with a champagne- tinted cup that has a luminous green eye and a scarlet-orange rim.
If you’re looking for more ideas, please contact me for a design consultation to learn about landscape design or the best plants for any spot in your garden.
For November, we would like to introduce you to Euonymus japonicus ‘Dr. Rokugo Variegata’ — otherwise known as the Dr. Rokugo Variegated Spindle Tree.
Though its name suggests a tree, this plant is truly more of a dense, mounding shrubette. It’s like no other species in the large genus Euonymus. It has a dense, vertical habit consisting of compact spires of tiny leaves stacked around a fiberous core, resulting in an almost whimsical look. It grows to be only about a foot tall.
If the word “quirky” could apply to plants, it would be perfect for the Dr. Rokugo Variegated Spindle Tree. While this plant risks getting lost among larger plants, it is a great specimen for a dwarf garden. Plant it among other dwarf specimens or where it will be easily seen along the edge of a path or patio, and give it a place of its own — this species of Euonymus should not be used for mass plantings. You’ll find it ideal when curated into a plan for a small garden that includes a dwarf specimen or a collection of other dwarf plants.
Dr. Rokugo Variegated Spindle Tree is a true collector’s plant. If you like unusual plants that attract notice, this one is for you.
To learn more about garden planning, landscape design, and easy plants for your garden, please contact us.
Gardening in small spaces?
Living with small outdoor spaces is becoming more and more common and designing for them is getting more and more attention from the landscaping industry. At the recent Northwest Green Conference small gardens were a hot topic.
Rest assured that even if your space is limited, a dynamic garden is still possible. In fact, small garden spaces offer great opportunities. (See my landscape design galleries for some examples.)
The keys to success for small gardens are creating visual spaciousness and engaging all the senses.
Here are just a few of the tricks I have learned after many years of designing small gardens:
- Create balance and contrast. Select appropriate hard surfaces, then use lush plantings to add a sense of abundance.
- Connect distinctive areas. Create a theme that connects the contrasting elements in your garden. This can be done with color, repetition or garden art. Carefully placed mirrors can add dimension and depth in dark shaded locations. A simple water feature will provide another sensory experience and create a feeling of relaxation.
- Think big; free yourself from limitations. Lofty, transparent plants and open trelliswork and arbors increase vertical interest. Take advantage of different elevations: plants spilling over low walls or vines climbing up a backdrop add another dimension. Open areas keep the garden from feeling cramped
- Create a small pathway. Use strategically placed stepping-stones, shiny pebbles or glass to represent an invitation for entry.
- As you plan, keep in mind how you want to use your small garden. Is it a courtyard to pass through? Is it mostly viewed from indoors? Or is it going to be an outdoor room large enough for a couple of comfortable chairs or a barbecue and a small table?
- Choose plantings that won’t overwhelm the space. Use slow-growing plants and select plants with contrasting leave textures and colors. Choose plants that can be cut back and will come back the next season, fresh and lovely. To create a sense of softness, use low ground covers.
- Update and refine your design with annuals. Annuals are a great way to add color, keep things changing, and fill tiny spaces for an overflowing, abundant presentation.
We provide garden planning and landscape renovation for gardens of all sizes — from tiny urban gardens to new construction and established estate gardens.
Are you ready to remove the guesswork and increase your success rate with your plantings and garden features? Contact us to learn more about garden planning, landscape design, and gardens in small spaces.
We’d love to help!
Planting bulbs and gathering grand bouquets of colored leaves are the hallmarks of fall and the changing season. Choosing and planting bulbs can be anything from a simple family activity to an extensive plan for an open garden space. Bulbs come in many varieties ranging from tiny Crocus, which are less than 3 inches tall to Parrot Tulips, which are over 3 feet high. Color palettes can be bright with primary colors, or softer with pastels.
For smaller gardens, I plant clumps of like varieties and complimentary combinations with varying heights. For gardens with larger areas, a drift of all one type of bulb – in a single color – is stunning. If the terrain is more open, such as hillsides or woodland gardens, bulbs can be used in bands to replicate the flow of a stream or other patterns.
Bulbs provide a non-stop show from late winter through late spring, depending on how you sequence them. Snow Drops bloom as early as late January and some varieties of Tulips bloom as late as May. Some of my favorite bulbs include: early-blooming ‘Lake of Fire’ Tulip, mid-blooming ‘Naturalizing Dream’ Narcissus and late-blooming ‘Merlin’ Narcissus. The honorable, late blooming ‘Queen of the Night’ Tulip in an aubergine purple is always stunning. Bulbs are extremely hearty and they don’t require a complicated process to plant in an existing garden. If you have young people in the family, involving them in bulb planting is an excellent way to expose them to outdoor education. Write a note of what they planted and watch their realization when the sprigs of green start coming up.
I hope these tips keep you active and motivated to be in your garden space. Feel free to contact me for a consultation if you have questions or need help developing a plan.