Lasagna Gardening

Layer bulbs this winter for a spectacular spring show and bake up a tantalizing succession of color and fragrance that will last for months.
Tulipa Spring Green is Cool and Elegant in Spring

Tulipa Spring Green is Cool and Elegant in Spring

A lovely and elegant presence, ‘Spring Green’ enchants the garden with its ivory petals that are flushed with apple green flames. As fresh as a spring day, this tulip echoes the color of the Dogwoods, which blooms at the same time.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

A lovely and elegant presence, ‘Spring Green’ enchants the garden with its ivory petals that are flushed with apple green flames. As fresh as a spring day, this tulip echoes the color of the Dogwoods, which blooms at the same time.

If it’s cold outside, it’s time to think spring, and that means bulbs. Daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and crocuses are the workhorse favorites, of course. But consider other, less commonly known types, such as IpheionMuscari (grape hyacinth), Scilla and Puschkinia, as well as species tulips, which are more diminutive than their hybrid cousins.

The key to planting bulbs is to give them plenty of sun, well-drained soil—and lots of company. Bulbs look their best when grouped in masses—we’re talking dozens or even hundreds—not in rows or two or three here and there. Many are discovering the joys of growing bulbs in container gardens, especially planted under winter-hardy annuals like pansies and violas, using a handy recipe called “bulb lasagna.”

With a little planning and careful selection of bulbs as to when they bloom, you can bake up a tantalizing succession of color and fragrance that will last for months. Bulb lasagna is simply layering bulbs at varying depths so that they overlap in bloom times.

First, choose a spot that gets full sun in winter—and your full attention for enjoying the show, such as by a doorway, outside a window, along a pathway. Choose a container at least 12 to 14 inches deep and make sure it contains a drainage hole. Add an inch or two of gravel to the bottom.

Then select bulbs that require varying planting depths as well as ones that grow to varying heights. Also choose early-, mid- and late-spring blooming varieties for creating that succession of color. Good choices include crocuses (early), grape hyacinths and daffodils (mid season) and tulips {mid to late spring).

How to Make Bulb Lasagna

Start by adding a 2-inch layer of soil to the gravel and planting the largest bulbs first, such as tulips or daffodils (the large King Alfreds), at 6 to 8 inches deep. Space them no more than a half-inch apart, cover with a 2- inch layer of soil – your lasagna “sauce,” if you will — and sprinkle with a handful of bone meal (think Parmesan cheese!).

Next, add bulbs that should be planted about 6 inches deep, such as Dutch hyacinths and narcissus, topping with another layer of soil and bone meal. Finally, top the casserole with small, shallow-planted bulbs like crocuses and grape hyacinths . This time, cover them with 3 to 4 inches of soil and top the container with a planting of pansies, violas or dianthus. Mulch and keep watered throughout winter as you await the spectacle to begin.

Mangia! Mangia!

Keep Reading

Next Up

How to Plant in Gardening Containers

To ensure that plants in gardening containers grow and perform as well as possible, you need to plant them properly.

Family Planting: Tropical Garden

A tropical border is one of the most exciting plantings, filled with bold, colorful plants and reminiscent of a child’s fantasy jungle.

Shade Gardening Secrets

Learn how to choose shade-tolerant plants for your garden.

Family Planting: The Giant Garden

Large plants that dwarf little people can be a wonderful addition to a children’s garden.

Tips for Planting a Rock Garden

Creating an optimal environment and choosing the right plants are essential to creating a rock garden.

Family Planting: Butterfly Garden

If you have a sunny, sheltered border, you have the makings of a butterfly garden. Here's what you need to get started.

The Cold, Hard Facts on Protecting Potted Plants

Get tips for helping your potted plants survive winter.

Keyhole Gardening Tips

Try this inexpensive, green solution to growing food in drought-prone terrain.