5 Tips for a Garden Full of Flower Bulbs

A garden without flower bulbs? A missed opportunity! The (still somewhat boring) plant borders can already be grand and compelling. Get started with these five tips from garden blogger Julian Tynan.

Tip 1: combine flower bulbs with perennials

Just haphazardly putting some bulbs in the ground is of course an option, but for a more slick effect, it is better to match the bulbs to your (emerging) perennials. Photograph your borders in February, March, April, and May and look at what the border will look like each month so that you know what to plant in the fall. For example, do yellows and purples dominate in May? Then the spherical, purple Alliums fit in nicely.

Tip 2: Make a mood board

If like me, you are someone who forgets to take photos in the spring but still wants to plant some bulbs quickly, there is, fortunately, another option B. If you know exactly which plants are in your garden, you can create a mood board to make. Make sure that the stage the plant is in corresponds to the flowering month of the bulbs. Process the different images in a document (digital or nice old-school by cutting and pasting). Now you have an image of the color palette of, for example, the month of March or April. Find out what the available flower bulbs are for that same month, search for a picture and paste them in between: you will immediately see whether it is a match.

Tip 3: look at the garden designer

Carien van Boxtel is a planting expert specializing in bulbs. Her job is to find the most perfect combinations of perennials and bulbs. If you cannot find a solution, you can ask her to make a slick bulb plan for your garden. You can find a few of Caren’s favorite combinations in the list at the bottom of this blog. If you plant a little bit of everything, your garden will be in bloom from February to May.

Tip 4: plant (too) many flower bulbs

If you plant ten tulips or Allium bulbs, you will hardly find them in your garden. You already need that number for one group. You prefer to repeat the groups in different places, so you soon need a hundred of a kind for a little effect.

Tip 5: ‘Sprinkle’ the flower bulbs

Planting in groups does not mean that you have to make neat groups. On the contrary: scatter the bulbs in the border and plant them where they fall for a natural result. In practice, I find it more pleasant to sprinkle them in my mind. When you literally scatter them, half can disappear among the other plants. You will only find it again when the garden is bare: in winter.

Carien’s favorites:

  • Jan / Feb: snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis or elwesii) with Anemanthele lessoniana, Euphorbia robbiae, Carex ‘Everillo’, (leaf of) Arum italicum, all Helleborus species and evergreen ferns.
  • March / April: Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa), Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa) and Oriental Star Hyacinth (Scilla siberica) with Luzula nivea, Cardamine trifolia, all Helleborus species, Pulmonaria species and Millium effuseum.
  • March / April: long-stemmed tulips and daffodils with (leaf of) Camassia leichtlinii ‘Sacajawea’, ornamental grasses such as Stipa gigantea and Deschampsia cespitosa, Euphorbia species including Euphorbia characias ‘Humpty Dumpty’, spreading Thalictrum, Tellima, Lunaria rediviva, Geranium, and beautiful dark-leaved plants such as bronze fennel, Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’, all Erysimum varieties, as well as dark kale, artichoke and cardoon, thyme, rosemary, and roses!
  • May / June: Allium is beautiful due to late flowering with all kinds of (early) summer bloomers, such as Lupine, Lunaria, roses, geranium, and of course ornamental grasses
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