Naturalizing an area with bulbs- crocus and others?

Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)October 7, 2013

Does anyone have any recommendations on what to think about before deciding to naturalize an area?

We got rid of our front lawn 2 years ago. It is covered in mulch and I have a good start on perennials- all turned out to be summer bloomers though, doh.

It is still very slow process and we have a mound that's about 10ft long by 4ft wide- meant to give added dimensions in our yard. We're still deciding if it was a good idea to do this- if you have planting suggestion would love to hear them. But, since I only have 2 plants on the mound so far, I was thinking of planting snow crocuses now to give my yard more color in the spring and feed the bees.

To naturalize:
-how many do you plant in an area?
-just plant anywhere? No lines or patterns, right?
-do you stick to 1 type of bulb- snow crocus, or mix in daffodils and tulips?
-can I eventually plant other plants on top of bulbs and still have the bulbs come up when the other plants haven't really started to grow for the season?
-AND- how much of a pain in the butt is it to plant 100 or so bulbs?

Is it worth the effort? It looks great in photos but does it actually turn out that way for someone who has only been gardening for 2 years? This appeals to me because I don't need to plan it. I don't seem to have a good eye for arranging flowers.

Any advice is appreciated.

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Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)

Ah- it seems a reason naturalizing is done in grassy areas is to cover or mow the browning leaves of the bulbs. If I'm planting in a mulched area it may look too dead and brown in the end?

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 4:03PM
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jerseygirl07603 z6NJ

Are you planning to put bulbs in the 10 x 4 area only or throughout the entire front yard? I, too, removed the grass from front yard - it's still a work in progress - you figure it out as you go along. If you are planting only bulbs in 10 x 4 area, it will be barren for summer. My preference with bulbs is to plant a bunch of 1 bulb in a tight group, say 8-10 tulips in one spot, then 8-10 daffys in another spot, etc. Then have clumps of perennials throughout area. If you want to remove the bulbs at some point, it's easier to get at them. I pop in annuals over the bulbs when foliage dies, to fill in summer gaps. Small shrubs, flowering + evergreen can be added too to extend flowering season and add winter interest. 100 bulbs really isn't that many if you plant say 10 at a time and you spread project over several days.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 7:04AM
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Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)

I hadn't decided yet whether to plant only the mound (which is actually 15ft x 6ft after I put a tape measure to it) or the entire yard in between other plants. I had thought to just start with the mound and take it from there.

I like your suggestion of planting in bunches, but also of covering up the dead bulbs with annuals on the mound- this will bring variety to the yard. Tough choices.

I love the look of naturalizing but since I don't have grass and 1/2 the yard is planted with perennials it may not be a good idea.

Did you plan your yard before planting? I already have to dig up and move some plants that are either not doing well in their location, or to minimize the gap between other plants, or because they fit better in a different grouping.

Do you keep the plants that you're somewhat disappointed in?

I got off topic. Sorry.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 12:27PM
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jerseygirl07603 z6NJ

I had a loose plan when I started. The garden is edged in low boxwood hedge. Inside is dwarf weeping cherry, with a few small shrubs, scattered around, a boulder and some rocks, a mum, some bulbs, iris and I throw in annuals. Like I said, it's a work in progress. I dig out tulips when color isn't what I love or any plant that disappoints. I have no time or space to waste. And now the dwarf cherry tree is getting wider so there is less space for perennials. Will have to re-arrange things. Again.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 1:57PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Since bulbs are likely to put on a very seasonal show, and at a low height, leaving foliage that's not the star of the show anymore, I use them in widely-spaced clumps. Then other plants, shrubs, annuals can have room to take over later. The whole area should look more active/fresh/interesting for most of the year this way. If by naturalized, you meant a naturally-occurring appearance in a mulched bed area, that's my take on it.

Bulbs move very easily, so if/whenever you realize a clump is mis-placed, you can move it. The biggest problem I've ever had with bulbs is accidentally slicing them while digging around to plant other things while they are dormant, invisible. (Nope, that's not really a hole... sometimes the bulbs 'win' and stay, sometimes the new plant evicts them.)

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 12:23PM
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Yea, I killed almost a whole newly ordered batch just after one season because I decided I had to re-distribute those perennials.

So, I would suggest either to wait till you know what you want to plant exactly or plant the stuff really deep, like 3 inches or more soil over the bulb tip.

(what soil, andy/ loamy')


bye, Lin

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 2:52PM
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My husband is amazed by how quickly I can plant 100 bulbs. If you are planting drifts, take a shovel and dig down to the depth you want. Then I fold back the sod exposing a fresh bed for planting that is maybe a square foot in area. I arrange my bulbs and replace the sod. I do this all over the yard, wherever I want bulbs. It goes really fast. I'm planning to scatter about 1000 crocus in my lawn next fall. I expect to do it in one afternoon.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 3:59PM
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What fun you'll have! Just a quick note to add to all the wonderful advice up there- remember to plant bulbs by time of blooming. For example, you'll start with crocus (as you mentioned), then tulips and daffodils. For tulips and daffodils, try planting early, mid and late spring varieties. This way, you'll not be out of color until end of May. By this time, your early perennials should take over.

A good thing to do is to sketch the area on paper and fill in with the desired bulbs/plants according to bloom times. This should allow you to have some idea of how to lay it all out and look "naturalized" while still having something blooming at all times.

Tip: You can braid the daffodil stalks and they shouldn't look so unsightly. Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 7:27PM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

Oh dear - please don't follow surya55's tip, well meant though it is. You shouldn't braid or tie bulb foliage after flowering. Apart from being a time consuming faff it is detrimental to the bulbs as it deprives the foliage of light and air. You can pull the foliage after about 6 weeks. If it doesn't come away easily leave it a little longer. Don't cut off the foliage as this leaves stubs which can encourage rot.

If the bulbs are planted amongst perennials or grass the foliage should not really be a problem anyway.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 4:54AM
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