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September – a strategy for incorporating bulbs in your landscape

I love bulbs and bulb catalogues. Even though I receive dozens in the mail every fall, I can’t resist them. I have to at least flip through and imagine all the spring and summer color that I could add to my yard. And, like many people, I’ve occasionally ordered more bulbs than I can handle. When this happens I tend to just plant them wherever I can, which can be problematic come spring. Read on for some tips to consider when adding bulbs to your garden.

As with any plant, you’ve got to site bulbs in the appropriate cultural conditions if you want them to survive and return each year. While this may seem straight forward, different bulbs bloom and complete their lifecycle at different times of year, with the result that an area that may be perfect for full sun early spring bulbs will also be perfect for part shade late summer bulbs. One example of this is planting early blooming daffodils under the canopies of deciduous trees. These normally shady areas often receive enough winter sun to support a beautiful early season bulb display.

Because bulbs are planted when they and many other plants are dormant, it can be difficult to have a clear picture of how the planting will look when in bloom. I typically add bulbs where late spring and summer perennials are planted, so that the area supports a longer season of blooms, but it is also important to consider how these plants will work together and contribute to the surrounding planting. One rule I try to follow is to consider the height of the perennials that I’m planting among – for example if I want to add bulbs to a bed full of daylilies, daffodils or tulips are a great choice as they have a similar habit and size. Crocus works nicely planted among moss phlox because both are low to the ground with finely textured foliage.

Finally, the bulb catalogues show us how beautiful these tough plants can be in bloom, but they don’t always show us what they look like once that bloom is past. This is an important consideration because spent bulb foliage must be left to wither if the plant is to gather sufficient energy to return the following year, and this can take months. For this reason I encourage our clients to plant bulbs where they will be disguised by other plantings as they move towards dormancy. One classic example is to plant daffodils among hostas under deciduous trees. As the trees leaf out and the hostas start to emerge they help cover and distract from the browning bulb foliage.

Interested in adding bulbs to your garden this fall? Contact Bright Leaf Landscaping at 919-475-1015 or fill out our online contact form here. Design and installation are our expertise, and we are always happy to meet with new clients to discuss potential projects!