Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.


If you’re looking for first-of-the-spring blooms, you have to plant bulbs. And you have to get them in the ground this fall! I understand how overwhelming it might be to decide which bulbs to pair together — there are so many options! I get it. Hopefully, I can help by sharing three of my favorite bulb combinations.


When I see white and purple together in the garden, it seems so fresh, so crisp, and so refreshing, especially after a long winter. It’s probably my ultimate bulb-combo recommendation. There are several different varieties of daffodils and tulips, see which ones suit might your fancy in our plant encyclopedia: Daffodils,  Tulips.

Looking for more ways to pair white and purple? Get design ideas here.


I’ve always thought the idea of planting bulbs in your lawn for a blanket of spring blooms was clever. Someday I’ll implement this technique with fragrant grape hyacinth and crocus. It really isn’t that hard. See how here.  Also, find out which grape hyacinths are our favorites and learn more about growing crocus.

Do you have bulbs planted in your lawn? I’d love to hear what varieties — and any tips you’ve learned.

Bold Partners

Sometimes you have the desire to make a statement, turn heads in the neighborhood, and that requires a bold combo. Crown imperial and parrot tulips top my list for a crowd-pleaser. Not only are they unique bloomers, their color really pops in the garden. Learn more about crown imperial and hybrid tulips from our plant encyclopedia.


Do you have a favorite bulb combination? Share with us!

After a couple of days with record warmth in the 70s and 80s, early spring bulbs are displaying their vernal glory in my yard. As of March 14 the landscape features eight different types of crocuses, three iris varieties, three kinds of daffodils, spring meadow saffron, snowdrops, winter aconite, and pasque flower in bloom. This early color may not last long because temperatures are predicted to remain in the 70s through next week, but it’s such a welcome sight to see splashes of color dotting the yard before winter officially makes its exit.

Here are some current photos from the yard.

My favorite crocus is Crocus fuscotinctus. Its bright gold flowers have purplish maroon stripes on the outside of the petals, and it's always one of the first to come into bloom. It's growing near the mailbox, where it withstands winter road salt.

It's easy to see where the tricolor part of the name comes from for Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor'. Lilac-purple petals have a golden base with a stripe of white in between.

Crocus vernus 'Grand Maitre' translates as Grand Master, an apt name for this gorgeous purple crocus with an intricately frilly orange stigma.

Crocus flavus has large, intense yellow blooms that open wide only when the sun is shining. On cloudy days and at night, they close up.

Spring meadow saffron (Bulbocodium vernum) is a crocus cousin native to the Pyrenees and Alps. It is sometimes called Colchicum vernum.

Spanish iris (Iris hispanica 'George') has deep purple blooms with colorful markings on its nearly tubular falls. It grows nearly one foot tall.

Reticulate iris (Iris reticulata 'Harmony') has purple-blue petals with distinctive markings on its falls. It reaches just six inches tall.

mulchpileLast weekend I found a bargain on bagged hardwood mulch that I couldn’t resist. The pile you see at left is only a small portion of the 300 bags that I purchased and spread throughout the perennial beds in my yard. (For those of you who are wondering, that’s a bit over 22 cubic yards of mulch.)

It had been several years since I applied the original wood chip mulch on most beds, and I had two large new beds that never got mulched at all last year. So I was delighted to find such a good deal. The mulch will help keep weeds down, conserve moisture, and keep blooms clean. I find that if I spread it about 2 inches deep throughout the beds, the perennials and bulbs come up through the mulch just fine. This time of year, as the perennials are just starting to poke through the ground, and the early spring bulbs are beginning to bloom, is a great time to spread the mulch. I don’t need to be extremely cautious in spreading the mulch around individual plants; broadcast application works quite well.

To illustrate my point, take a look at these crocuses and irises that I shot in my garden after spreading the mulch. My only regret is that I didn’t buy another 100 bags of mulch, which would have been enough to mulch all of the beds in my yard!

Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor'. The gold and white center of each flower glows from within a lavender corona.

Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor'. The gold and white center of each flower glows from within a lavender corona.

Iris reticulata 'Harmony'. Deep purple falls are splashed with gold on this diminutive gem.

Iris reticulata 'Harmony'. Deep purple falls are splashed with gold on this diminutive gem.

Iris danfordiae. This tiny yellow iris makes a great companion for the yellow chrysanthus crocuses.

Iris danfordiae. This tiny yellow iris makes a great companion for the yellow chrysanthus crocuses.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Fuscotinctus'. I love the contrast of the deep purple streaks on the outer petals with the bright gold interior.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Fuscotinctus'. I love the contrast of the deep purple streaks on the outer petals with the bright gold interior.

I just returned from a press trip to the Netherlands, courtesy of the International Flower Bulb Center. Thanks to the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland, my stay in Europe was nearly extended indefinitely. However, after five days in Holland, I continued on to Barcelona–just before the volcano shut down air travel. This proved to be a fortuitous choice of locations for getting a return flight to the U.S.

Colorful spring landscape

I saw lots of outstanding color from traditional plantings such as these sweeping monochrome beds of tulips paired with flowering cherry trees at Keukenhof Gardens. This theme park of flowers annually dazzles millions of visitors during its display of springtime splendor from late March through late May. The cool temperatures (daytime highs in the 50s F and nighttime lows in the 30s and 40s) during this time in the Netherlands keep the colors vivid for weeks on end. But even with the favorable climate, no spring bulb blooms will last for the entire show. So organizers plant late bloomers in the same beds with early bloomers to take over when the first flowers begin to fade.

One of the trends I saw in the Dutch gardens was interplanting different types of bulbs that bloom at the same time. The photo at right shows a gorgeous combination of crocus ‘Remembrance’ with ‘Heart’s Delight’ kaufmanniana tulip (also sometimes called the waterlily tulip for the shape of its flowers). Who wouldn’t love this burst of color in their own yard?

Another evident trend is combining and interplanting bulbs with later-blooming perennials. Rather than creating a mass of color, this technique evokes a cottage garden look, with splashes of color and texture intertwined in a informal display. The example mixed border at right uses glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa), daffodils (Narcissus), and checkered lilies (Fritillaria meleagris) planted among heuchera, bleeding heart, ferns, and hellebores.

Yet another trend I observed was widespread use of spring bulbs in containers gardens. This is the perfect way for those with limited space to enjoy these spring beauties. By raising the flowers above ground level, they’re easier to see up close. As the bulbs’ blooms fade, replant the pot with colorful summer annuals. The container pictured includes deep purple Triumph tulips, checkered lily, and golden sedge (Carex).

I may not be returning to the Netherlands anytime soon, but I plan to recreate the spirit of those gardens by planting more bulbs in my own garden, using some of the ideas I picked up in Europe.

I heard them yesterday on my lunch-hour run near the Raccoon River. The spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) were chirping in full chorus. These tiny little frogs are one of the sure signs of spring. The males create a cacaphony of music in their attempt to attract mates who will lay their eggs in small ponds that often dry up later in the year.

Yellow crocus (Crocus flavus)

Yellow crocus (Crocus flavus)

Those spring peepers made me think of other signs of spring that I noted in my yard this week, and wondered whether they could be consistently connected. These cheery yellow crocus came into full bloom in my backyard, where they fill two quadrants of a boxwood parterre. Other crocuses also have come into full glory this past week. Pale blue ‘Blue Pearl’, deep purple ‘Grand Maitre’, and creamy ‘Romance’ snow crocus brighten the garden beds.

I also noticed some of the early irises blooming. This bright yellow danford iris (Iris danfordiae) greets me as I walk to the mailbox. Deep blue ‘Harmony’ reticulate iris (Iris reticulata) and purple ‘George’ Spanish iris (Iris histrioides) popped through the winter mulch this week, too.

Danford iris (Iris danfodiae)

Danford iris (Iris danfordiae)

Could these early-season crocuses and irises be indicators of the awakening of spring peepers? I’ve not necessarily made the connection before. Phenology, the correlation of biological phenomena with climatic conditions, can be used by gardeners to watch for or treat certain pests. For example, recommendations to apply crabgrass preventer when forsythias are in bloom stem from the need to get the weed preventer in place before the ground warms to 55 degrees F, the temperature at which crabgrass seeds begin to germinate.

Have you made connections between bloom dates in your yard with other natural phenomena? If so, we’d love to hear about them.

One of my friends is getting more and more excited about gardening. She bought her first batch of spring-blooming bulbs this year and was really excited to start 2010 with a show of tulips, daffodils, anemones, and crocus.

All was well until I got a worried call from her. She said she wasn’t sure how to plant the bulbs and how deep to plant them.

If you’ve run into this question, there’s happily a pretty easy answer.  Plant most spring bulbs about three times deeper than the bulb is tall. So if you have a 3-inch-tall tulip, you’ll want to plant it about 9 inches deep.

And as far as which way to plant, the pointy side is generally up. For types that don’t have a point, plant them on their side — they’ll send their roots down and their shoots up.

© Copyright , Meredith Corporation. All Rights Reserved | Privacy Policy | Data Policy | Terms of Service | AdChoices