Planting bulbs takes a leap of faith. You purchase and plant seemingly lifeless bulbs in the fall and wait. Those who take the leap are richly rewarded when flowers in a multitude of colors burst from the soil chasing away the gray days of winter.
Bulbs that bloom in early spring are just what the doctor ordered to shorten winter. In mid-spring, they mix with spring blooming perennials. In the height of spring bloom, they complement the colors of blooming trees and shrubs. And when planted alongside summer perennials, they add another layer of color.
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Planting bulbs is easy. Just follow a few simple guidelines:
Bulbs like to be dry during dormancy. They excel when planted on berms or in raised beds. Avoid low spots in the landscape that hold water after a summer rain.
Find the sunniest spots for planting. If sun is at a minimum, choose the earliest blooming bulbs that flower before the trees leaf out.
Bulbs are heavy feeders. Fertilize them when planting with bone meal or bulb fertilizer. Then feed them twice more: in spring as foliage emerges and in fall after the first frost.
Plant a blanket of color
White snowdrops, blue scilla and multicolored crocus bloom before anything else stirs in the garden. Their petite, colonizing habits are the perfect fit for an early spring ground cover.
They can dominate beds by themselves or can be planted into existing ground covers that will hide the yellowing foliage of bulbs going dormant. The small size of these bulbs makes planting easy. Plant them by handfuls in 1- to 3-inch deep holes and cover. They will increase in numbers each year creating lovely masses.
Plant in bouquets
Mid-spring bloomers fill the gap between the melting snow and bud swell of trees and shrubs, usually mid-April through early May. Plant midseason bulbs in groups between existing perennials -- a method referred to as bouquet planting.
Perennials with low, mounded habits form a lovely base for medium-height bulbs. Brilliant red tulips rising from white candytuft is stunning. Forget-me-nots matched with white daffodils and pink tulips fashion a pleasant picture.
Large bouquets of daffodils planted among day lilies or ornamental grasses are time-tested combinations. The daffodils star in the garden while day lilies and grasses are dormant. The day lilies and grasses take over the show after daffodils exit stage left.
Color echoes in late spring
The sheer numbers of perennials and bulbs blooming in late spring allow for incredible color echoes. Color echoing involves repeating the same color throughout a grouping while varying the texture or form of the plant. You can choose two different bulbs in the same color and then set them off with the contrasting blooms of a favorite perennial.
Or plant bulbs in matching shades at the bases of lilacs, crabapples, and magnolias.
Thoughtful pairings of bulbs with ground covers, perennials, shrubs and trees will reward you with a landscape filled with rich color. Go ahead -- take the leap!
• Diana Stoll is a horticulturist and the garden center manager at The Planter's Palette, 28W571 Roosevelt Road, Winfield. Call (630) 293-1040, ext. 2, or visit planterspalette.com.