Help planning bulb garden...

homemommyJanuary 31, 2009

I want to plant an entirely bulb garden over the next year or so that will bloom from early spring to fall.

i have a head start, having some tulips and daffodills. (both in early, mid and late)and drumstick allium.

I want to plant some iris, lilies, and then I am sort of at a loss as to what else to plant...

And when will the lilies / iris bloom?


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ontnative(5b Can/USDA 4)

What about all the little spring bulbs such as snowdrops, aconites, scilla, etc.? They are fantastic for very early spring colour. I also have crocus tomasinianus, bulbous iris 'Harmony", species tulips such as tarda . . . . For late spring to summer there is Lilium Regale 'album' and crocosmias, such as Lucifer, which is hardy and can be left in the ground over winter. Oriental lilies are lovely in late summer and most are very fragrant. Easy ones are Stargazer(red or white) and Casa Blanca (white). I have found from personal experience that the red lily beetles absolutely devour my Asiatic lilies but are not as much of a problem on the Regals or Orientals. I still have to collect/squish beetles, but the plants at least have a chance of flowering. I'm sure that others will have many more suggestions for your bulb/corm/tuber garden.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2009 at 11:41AM
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Being two zones away from you, bloom times for bulbs, corms, rhizomes, and tubers most likely vary.

For me, Scilla, Puschkinia, Muscari, and crocus bloom in April into early May. Lily of the Valley in May; Daffodils in May depending on the severity of the winter. Asiatic lilies in June/July; Siberian Iris and tall bearded iris in June; Oriental lilies in July; gladiolus when I've planted them bloom in August; Acidanthera in Sept; True Tiger Lilies (Lilium Tigrinum) early August well into September.

I don't do tulips because they're deer candy and I never get them protected in time.

Tuberous begonias in shadier spots bloom all season until the first hard freeze; dahlias in sun all season until the first hard freeze.

Acidanthera, glads, tuberous begonias, and dahlias would probably be the best season extenders in a bulb-type garden.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2009 at 3:31PM
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There are some complications when planning an "all-bulb" or "bulb only" planting area. The first is that not all bulbs wll be happy growing in the same conditions......some need full sun and dryness during summer, others prefer a shady or woodland situation, and yet others - mostly the summer flowering tenders - need full sun and regular and frequent summer irrigation. It's difficult to combine all these different variables in a single planting area and have everybody happy :-)

A couple of other things to consider. Many summer flowering bulbs - dahlias, begonias, glads, acidanthera, etc. - are not reliably hardy in the ground in many areas and will need to be lifted and stored for winter. Planting them in the same area as their hardy, permanently inground cousins runs the risk of damaging one or the other attemtping to remove each year. And a dedicated bulb bed will offer a barren expanse of soil for many months of the year....that's just the seasonal nature of most bulbs - no presence in the garden from late fall to early spring. Of course it is a very personal choice how one plans their garden, but I think bulbs look best when they are combined with other plants - small trees, shrubs and perennials, even grasses - that offer structure, contrasting foliage, complimentary flowering times, and even more valuable, providing distraction or disguise from ripening bulb foliage. But it is very possible to have a selection of different bulbs in the garden that will flower from late winter or very early spring (snowdrops/Galanthus, winter aconite) through to late fall (autumn crocus, Nerines, rain lilies).

You may want to locate or purchase a good, basic bulb book that will outline all the different types, what growing conditions they need and how best to care for them. What we tend to lump together as "bulbs" are really an assortment of different types of plants, some of which are not really bulbs at all - daylilies, alstroemeria, Siberian or bearded iris, Lily of the Valley, etc. - but fleshy-rooted perennials that sometimes develope enlarged roots as water or nutrient storage organs.

As to the iris, there are many different types with a range of growing requirements and bloom times. Most bulbous iris will bloom quite early in spring but Dutch or English are summer bloomers, bearded iris tend to bloom around Mother's Day (some will have a periodic rebloom through summer), Siberian, Japanese and many native iris shortly thereafter. There's even a few species that will bloom quite late (or very early, depending on how you look at it) in winter, at least in milder areas.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2009 at 10:56AM
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hmmm... you have all brought up some great suggestions and wonderful points!

I have overwintered my dahlia tubers this year, and so far they are looking good so I know what you mean about not everything being hardy and the potential to damage or disturb other bulbs / plants.

I had not considered the watering, while I am busy watering my summer bloomers, I could be rotting out the spring bulbs...

I have heard of people lifting tulips to store them for fall planting... anyone have experiance with that?

    Bookmark   February 1, 2009 at 9:35PM
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iris_gal(z9 CA)

I have had poor luck lifting tulips - too easily the splits wither. I prefer to leave them amongst the bearded iris which require very little water. I am trying a new Darwin in a small hill in hopes of more than 2 years bloom and built for good drainage. Plus I won't accidently dig there :-)

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 2:18AM
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Thanks for the tip, I perhaps need to start replaning how to work, and group my tulips with Iris... I would like to get away from too many tulips due to squirel activity and the fact they really are turning into a near every year expense!!

Anyone recommend some more less common bulbs / corms / tubers?

Like, Montbbretias (crocosmiflora)
Ranunculus, (persian buttercup)

zephyranthes? (Pink Fairy Lily)

Fire Cracker Flower? (dichelostemma)

Or Saffron Fire Flowers? (Crocosmia)

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 10:02AM
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ofionnachta(z6 WNJ)

You live relatively near me---take a good look at a catalog from a comprehensive company such as Scheeper's & do some planning for height, colors, bloom times, etc. You can't plant the spring blooming bulbs till next autumn so you have plenty of time to do planning.

Bear in mind most of them, especially the larger ones, prefer sun. The small ones,like snow glories (chinodoxa) will be done blooming before there is much shade & you can get away with putting them under trees as long as it isn't dense dark jungle type shade.

Irises bloom mostly in May. Tulips come in late April & May depending on variety. Tulips are deer candy around here so I scarcely bother. Also they are just about annuals---so if you don't have a deer problem, buy tulips as annuals and you won't be sad when they don't come back---because they probably won't.

If you have to have them, put a tulip bulb in the same hole as a daffodil--those are toxic & may keep some critters off the tulip.

I think crocosmia is not hardy in your zone.

I too am trying to get things together that will bloom spring through fall, but they are not all bulbs. In these beds I have (so far) some daylilies, irises, peonies, delphiniums, gladioli, hollyhocks (but they have trouble from rust), a Sharifa Asma rose, heuchera (the old fashioned kind), true lilies, as well as the daffodils, tulips, squill, chinodoxa, and other "little guys." It works--there is always something going on in there. I added a few annuals the first year to fill in the holes, especially in spring I used pansies.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 3:03PM
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ontnative(5b Can/USDA 4)

Some of the less common bulbs/tubers are "less common" for a reason. They can be trickier to grow, less hardy, more expensive, etc. I have tried firecracker flower, zephyranthes, tuberoses, and a few others, with very limited success. Maybe that is just me. Calla lilies did fine, the old white ones with spotted leaves. I only lost them when I forgot to take them in for the winter one year. Crocosmia 'Lucifer' (red) is the hardiest and should be OK to leave in the ground all year. I agree with others who advised to interplant herbaceous perennials with the bulbs. Otherwise you will have all that "yucky" yellowing bulb foliage and nothing to hide it. For example I plant narcissus and crocosmia with daylilies and Siberian iris. I then throw in a few Rudbeckia hirta cultivars, Phlox paniculata and some fall asters such as 'October Skies'.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 11:22AM
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