How to Use Bulbs in Your Garden
From diminutive winter-flowering snowdrops to the soaring stems of vibrant dahlias in the fall, bulbs, tubers, corms, and rhizomes offer a huge choice of flowers for all seasons, while their diversity of color and style will enrich any garden.
Infusing Gardens with Scent
Many bulbs boast colorful blooms, but a number are also celebrated for their delicious fragrance. Position them at the front of borders, or grow them in pots near the house. To create a perfumed paradise, seek out beautiful scents for all seasons, starting in spring with forms of Narcissus jonquilla, N. tazetta, and N. poeticus, as well as hyacinths and bluebells. In the summer, select the powerfully scented oriental and longiflorum lilies, or try the turkscap Lilium martagon in shady sites. End the year with the autumn-flowering Crinum x powellii.
Create carpets of color and texture by planting spring bulbs beneath the grass in the fall. Plant bulbs, such as snake’s head fritillaries, in a random pattern to mimic a wildflower meadow, or in a more formal garden, try planting in narrow lines to create stripes of delicate flowers. Experiment with color combinations: choose a limited range of pastel shades, or plan for an explosion of color. Leave the bulbs to die down naturally before mowing in late spring, and the plants will then multiply to give even greater displays in future years.
Making Seasonal Displays
Inject color into your patio displays throughout the year with a range of bulbs for different seasons. Some, such as snowdrops, will flower year after year if planted in a cool spot; team them with other woodlanders, such as small ferns and hellebores. Other diminutive, early-flowering bulbs, such as irises and species tulips, are perfect for a sink or trough as part of an alpine collection. Grow dwarf narcissi and Muscari in window boxes and wall pots, and combine these with heucheras, violas, and evergreen grasses for color from winter to late spring. In the summer, surround a central planting of tall dahlias or cannas, and edge with trailing plants.
Creating Exotic Effects
Tender bulbs grown for their sparkling blooms, such as dahlias, cannas, and gladioli, fit perfectly into planting designs that mirror the exotic landscapes of the Far East or Caribbean. Plant them in late spring in free-draining soil or in containers, and combine their vibrant flowers with a foil of lush foliage. Some hardy bulbs also have exotic looks and work well as part of a themed display.
Welcoming in Spring
Gracing beds and borders with sunny yellows, hot pinks, sizzling reds, and cool blues, spring bulbs are a great way to kick off the growing season. Some, such as snowdrops, will appear once winter comes to a close and will be followed in quick succession throughout the season by dwarf irises, crocuses, and daffodils. By the middle of spring the garden will be ablaze with hyacinths, fritillaries, and the queens of the show, tulips. Underplant taller types with spring bedding in complementary shades.