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Beginner's question regarding bulbs in a garden....

Posted by bobby_c z7 DC (My Page) on
Tue, Sep 7, 10 at 12:10


I've been a gardener for 30 some years, mostly vegtables & perennials with & some annuals. There's been a few rouge bulbs that pop up from previous gardeners but I've never really did any planning with bulbs.

I guess my reluctance with planting bulbs has mostly been ignorance - I don't know what to do with them and where to plant them. I've always assumed that they produced spring blooms, I now know that there are some that produce at other times. But the bulbs I've always enjoyed were spring blooming, so much color and variety.

What has kept me mostly away from bulbs was how they fit into an established garden, this is where I would love you suggestions. Is it recommended to interspace bulbs with other perennials that might flower later in the season? If you do that, what do you do with the spent foliage once the bulb is done blooming? I guess I don't want just a bulb garden (don't have room for one anyhow) and I don't want a bunch of spent foliage covering up other blooming perennials.

Sorry if this post is not completely clear, I'm gaining some interest in planting bulbs in a well established perennial garden but don't know if that is a good idea or where to start. Any suggestions or help would be appreciated!


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Beginner's question regarding bulbs in a garden....

One of the prettiest ways of using bulbs imo is to naturalise them in grass. All the small daffodils, crocus, snowdrops, scillas and species tulips are suitable.

Spring flowering bulbs can also be tucked in all over other beds and under deciduous trees and shrubs. The foliage will usually be masked by the new growth of perrenials.

Here is a link that might be useful: Basic bulb info

RE: Beginner's question regarding bulbs in a garden....

Try 3 bulbs per pot. At bloom time place the pot in various locations to see if you like the effect. If so, that's its home. Ageing daffodil foliage lends itself well to loose braiding or it can be bent over and tied until yellowed. Foliage of smaller bulbs (crocus, anemone) doesn't really stand out. Tulip foliage is the one I find I dislike the most. Maybe because I plant those in mass. I do keep them for a couple of years in my zone.

RE: Beginner's question regarding bulbs in a garden....

I planted bulbs in any spot among my perennials & shrubs.
I also planted 2 - 3 types of bulbs in the same planting hole, largest at the bottom, add soil, medium size bulb, soil, minor bulb then soil.
This way I get combination or succession blooms, beginning late February all the way through until early spring blooming perennials pick up, and so on.

I don't do anything with spring bulb foliage. I allow it to grow until they turn brown. Then I mulch over or cut/pull them off depending on their size. Usually perennials will draw attention away from them.

RE: Beginner's question regarding bulbs in a garden....

The pot idea is very good. You will be able to see what looks good and where.

"Aging daffodil foliage lends itself well to loose braiding or it can be bent over and tied until yellowed." That advice is not recommended now, iris_gal. The bulbs need the foliage intact to feed the bulbs.

Like pitimpinai, I don't find bulb foliage a problem as all mine are in mixed plantings with perennials and shrubs. You just don't notice it. I get the feeling from p's posts that our gardening styles are similar. No beds devoted to single species. Just everything mixed and matched (but definitely not jumbled up) in an informal style with plants allowed to behave as their nature's dictate. And layering bulns works really well. You can tuck them in all over the place in very little space.

RE: Beginner's question regarding bulbs in a garden....

The pot idea IS a good one!

I also leave bulb foliage to mature, removing it only when it comes free with a gentle tug. As long as those leaves are green, they're photosynthesizing, making food for the bulb and next year's flower. Braiding, folding, or otherwise blocking sunlight from any of the foliage is said to interfere with that process. That being said ... I work at a public horticultural park where they routinely loosely fold and tie the foliage in the managed beds (as opposed to the naturalized areas), and the daffodils come back nice as can be every year. Maybe they would multiply more if left alone.

RE: Beginner's question regarding bulbs in a garden....

I've been growing bulbs with my perennials for many years, some I sort of "inherited" with the property and the clumps have been here for 50 years or more. I find that most of the bulbs have foliage that ages and is gone pretty quickly, or can be hidden among other plants that grow to cover them up. Crocus foliage can get pretty tall, (or long since it tends to flop) but it is thin and goes pretty fast.

Daffodil foliage, especially the late large flowering variety, can be another story altogether. I have some clumps that are at least 25 yrs old and have gotten huge. I've been trying to dig and separate them a few clumps at a time, but what do you do with a couple thousand daff bulbs (I am NOT exaggerating, I've counted them) so mostly I just leave them alone to do their beautiful spring thing. But the leaves get 3' long and thick and flop all over everything, smothering whatever is in range. They are capable of totally covering the huge hostas that they share a bed with. Some are naturalized in the woods where they aren't a problem. I have finally tried putting cages of 2x4 wire (from the home improvement store), about 2' tall and big enough to circle and support the clumps, around them, thus keeping their leaves upright. It works pretty well. The darn things can hang on until mid June. I've also used tomato cages cut in half as supports. The "cages" are pretty much invisible, especially as they get rusty, and they can be removed as soon as the foliage is finally done. Of course, if you keep them dug and separated every few years, they won't be a big problem!

RE: Beginner's question regarding bulbs in a garden....

I have large perennial/shrub borders and, for the most part, do not grow spring flowering bulbs in them, because it is all too easy to damage bulbs when it's time to divide or move perennials. I do, however, plant tulips lavishly in them since these bulbs are treated as annuals in our area anyway. Since I have to chill them for 8-10 weeks in the refrigerator, I mark the areas I want them in the borders in the fall before the perennials disappear, so that I know where to plant the tulips in late December. Typically, this will be the areas where I plant drifts of annuals in the summer.

The one exception to the "no bulbs in borders rule" is daffodils and daylilies. Daylilies are planted 2 feet apart on center, and I tend to use "ribbons" of them down the length of my borders. I plant daffodils in the precise center of the clumps so that I can always know where they are. My daylilies typically need dividing every three or four years and the bulbs are usually in need of dividing then, too.

Another strategy is to plant your bulbs thickly (every six inches for daffodils) under deciduous shrubs and ornamental grasses. I underplant roses, hydrangeas, weigelas, beautybush, deutzias, etc. with spring bulbs. By the time the shrubs are leafing out, the bulbs are finished blooming and their foliage is looking ratty. It flops to the ground under the shrubs and is not noticeable. Grasses are cut back in late winter just as the bulbs are coming up. The bulbs have ripened by the time the grasse are large enough to cover them.

Just one more note: I am far more favorable to early blooming bulbs than late ones. I "need" the color more when there's nothing else going on in the garden, and, more importantly, the early foliage is fairly well spent and no longer a nuisance by the time my summer plants are coming on strong.

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