by David Salman

Allium Purple Sensation Centranthus ruber Coccineus
Allium with Jupiter's Beard (Centranthus ruber Coccineus)

Extending The Seasons of Color in Your Garden

Many gardeners are under the impression that bulbs need to be planted into empty beds or other unplanted spaces. But this absolutely not the case. In fact, flowering bulbs are almost always found in their native habitats growing with native grasses and perennial plants.

Bulbs as Companions for Perennial Plants

Thus, bulbs are excellent companion plants that fit happily into existing flower beds of perennials and groundcovers. Not only will this create more natural looking plantings, but the bulbs will wake up the beds, and the grasses and perennials will help to hide the bulb foliage as the bulbs go dormant with the coming of summer.

Hyacinthoides hispanica excelsior
Spanish Hyacinth (Hyacinthoides hispanica) is an outstanding naturalizing bulb for mid-spring color for shady areas. Plant with False Deadnettle (Lamium) or other shade loving groundcovers.

Groundcovers and Spring bulbs

Planting bulbs into groundcovers is the first place to start. It's as easy as digging a hole in the groundcover mat and dropping some bulbs into the hole. Use a bulb planter to dig a nice hole and mix some Yum Yum Mix into the backfill soil. So when you fill the hole, the bulbs will be "well fed" when they wake up in the spring.

The groundcover Speedwells (genus Veronica) with their bright blue early to mid-season spring flowers create a fabulous backdrop for miniature Daffodils like 'Tete-a-Tete' and 'Thalia'. Crocus, miniature Iris and Wildflower Tulips are also excellent with the Speedwells. Creeping Thyme is another equally beautiful groundcover to mix with bulbs like Wildflower Tulips, Muscari, Crocus and miniature Daffodils. In shady areas planted with False Deadnettle (Lamium) or other shade loving groundcovers, the Spanish Hyacinth (Hyacinthoides hispanica) is an outstanding naturalizing bulb for mid-spring color.

Red Tulips With Nepeta (Catmint) and Iberis
Red Tulips with Nepeta (Catmint) and Iberis.

Taller Bulbs with Taller Perennials

The taller growing Darwin Hybrid Tulips and tall mid- to late spring blooming Daffodils will create a stunning combination when planted with other larger growing perennials. Nepeta (Catmint) with its blue flowers and white flowered Candytuft (Iberis) are two mid-spring bloomers that complement red blooming tall Darwin hybrid tulips. Jupiter's Beard (Centranthus) looks great with tall blooming Allium. Really, the number of pleasing flower combinations is endless when mixing bulbs into the perennial garden. Again, just use your bulb planter to dig holes between established perennials and drop in some bulbs. It's that easy.

Spring Blooming Bulbs: Easy Early Season Color

Spring blooming bulbs are one of the easiest and most rewarding plant groups we can use to extend the flowering season in our gardens. Not only will they bring a smile to the faces of winter-weary gardeners, but these brightly colored flowers provide vital early season nectar for native bees, honeybees and early-to-emerge butterflies.

There are many different species and selections of spring blooming bulbs. Some bloom very early (end of winter/beginning of spring) while others punctuate the end of spring with their May/June flowers. The key is to seek out a variety of bulbs to include ones that bloom in early, mid- and late spring. So, when making your bulb list to order this fall, pay special attention to their bloom times to spread out and extend their flowering season.

The key is to order some bulbs this fall and get started planting them as perennial companions. And next spring you'll be patting yourself on the back for giving this concept a try.

Text and Photos by Founder and Chief Horticulturist David Salman.

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