Bulbs for Western Gardens

"Match bloom times with non-bulb perennials to create an endless number of beautiful, low maintenance combinations"

Date September 22, 2011 at 1:03 PM

Publication SantaFe.com

Categories Home & Garden Outdoors & Recreation

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Our HCG bulb offerings are expanded and fine-tuned every year. We increase the varieties of daffodils, wildflower tulips and crocus that we have available and add some new varieties in all the categories. Notables among the new bulbs are several varieties of miniature and wildflower daffodils. These are among the easiest and most fail-safe bulbs to plant as they are untouched by deer and burrowing animals. However, with the little extra effort of applying Gopher Med (a plant derived from burrowing animal repellent), you can successfully grow any bulbs that are suitable to your cold hardiness zone.

Make many of these bulbs an integral part of your xeriscape. Just be sure that after planting them, you water regularly over the winter and spring to insure they get off to a good first growing season. Like any xeric plants, regular care of newly planted bulbs during the first year will pay off with many more years of low care color.

Be Sure to Mass the Small Bulbs

Many of the wildflower iris, tulips, and crocus are very small plants, so plant each variety in groups of at least a dozen bulbs. All of these little bulbs will multiply and spread like a groundcover, filling in the empty spots, but this will take several growing seasons.

Bulb Planters

Have the right types of bulb planters on hand when it’s time to plant. The Dibble planting tool is perfect for planting these small wildflower bulbs. Enrich the soil in the area where you want to plant by digging in compost, Yum Yum Mix and Planters II. Smooth the soil surface and use the Dibble to poke a small diameter hole into the ground. Drop in the tiny bulb, cover with soil and firm into place.

The larger bulb planter is designed to plant larger bulbs like garden daffodils and the larger tulips by pulling a large diameter plug of soil from the ground. When planting bigger bulbs, I like to have a bucket of premixed garden soil (enriched with compost, Yum Yum Mix and Planters II) at my side. Scatter the soil plug from the bulb planter, drop in the bulb (tip up) and fill the hole with the premixed soil. This is a fast, efficient way to plant lots of bulbs.

Some Design Ideas When Planning Your Bulb Plantings

When planning your new bulb plantings, be sure to consider their bloom times. If you want a big explosion of color, mass different types and colors of bulbs with the same early, mid or late spring bloom times. To create a long blooming area of bulbs in the garden, combine different varieties with different bloom times. In this way when one bulb goes out of bloom, another comes into color to replace it. As in the perennial border, be sure to plant the tallest bulbs in the back of the bed and the shortest in the front. Bulbs make ideal companions for early and mid-spring blooming perennials too. The groundcover Speedwells (Veronica species Turkish Speedwell & Thyme-leaf Speedwell) provide a blue carpet into which bulbs can be planted.

A similar situation can be created using early pink blooming groundcovers like Thymus ‘Pink Chintz’ and Thymus neceffii ‘Juniper Leaf Thyme.’ Crocus, wildflower Iris, miniature and wildflower Daffodils and wildflower Tulips are excellent choices to plant into these groundcovers. Look at our Spring Flowering Groundcover Sampler for Bulbs for more ideas.

Symphytum grandiflora ‘Hidcote Blue’ provides a wonderful nodding blue bell to contrast with the various Daffodils. For example, the tall garden Daffodil ‘Fortissimo; can be used in back of Symphytum, while the miniature Fragrant Wild Daffodil can be used in front. Iberis ‘Little Gem’ makes a bed of white through which blue Muscaria will grow and bloom. Alyssum montanum ‘Creeping Basket-of-Gold’ can be planted in front of Tulipa Fosteriana ‘Pink Emperor’ for a splash of golden yellow and pink. Viola corsica, with its rich violet flowers that come into bloom in mid-spring, is superb with daffodils poking up through them.

All of the Allium ‘Ornamental Onions’ are the last of the fall planted bulbs to flower, coming into color from late spring into early summer. I like to plant Allium sphaerocephalon in among blue Nepeta x faassenii ‘Select Blue’ and sulfur yellow Achillea ‘Moonshine’. The large violet flowers of Purple Sensation are beautiful when blooming amongst the yellow flowers of Aquilegia chrysantha ‘Golden Spur Columbine’. My point is that bulbs shouldn’t be planted only with other bulbs as companion plants. Match bloom times with non-bulb perennials to create an endless number of beautiful, low maintenance combinations.

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