Daffodil

Katie Ketelsen

3 Knock-Your-Spring-Socks-Off Bulb Combinations

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.

Fresh-Makers

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.

Ground-Huggers

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!


Denny Schrock

Crocus plus

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.


Denny Schrock

forced smiles

By late February nearly everyone is ready for spring to arrive. Cloudy, gloomy days bring a yearning for the bright colors and happy thoughts of spring. You can speed the process along by forcing flowering branches indoors. Even in a mild winter such as this one, by now most spring-flowering shrubs have received enough hours of cold to break dormancy once warm temperatures arrive. You can trick them into blooming early by cutting stems with plump buds (flower buds are thicker and rounder than leaf buds), and taking them into the warmth of your home.

The pink double blooms of flowering cherry pair with a rosy ranunculus in this spring bouquet.

Prune off pencil-width stems full of buds. Plunge the base of cut stems into warm water after stripping buds from the portion of the stem that will be under water. Keep the cut twigs at room temperature or slightly cooler to force them into flower. Change the water twice per week to keep it fresh. Within a few days to several weeks, depending on the time of winter and species of flowering shrub, your spring-in-a-vase will burst into bloom–an event that’s sure to bring smiles to the faces of those who see it.

Trees and shrubs that bloom earliest outdoors are the easiest and fastest to force indoors. Forsythia, flowering quince, redbud, pussy willow, and serviceberry are good choices for first-time forcers. But crabapple, lilac, and kousa dogwood will work, too. They just take a little longer.

This year I’m getting a jump on spring by forcing forsythia branches. The shrub needed pruning anyway. Rather than tossing the branches in the woodchip pile, I decided to enjoy them in flower first. I’m having fun watching the progression of swelling buds, and can hardly wait for the first bud to burst into full flower.

 

Combine Tete-a-Tete daffodils with pussy willow branches for an instant spring garden.

The bright yellow blooms of forsythia are some of the easiest to force into bloom.

For an Asian influence, back a windswept flowering quince branch with a bamboo screen.

The pink or white blooms of a forced crabapple add a delightful fragrance to any indoor setting.


Denny Schrock

tulip time in Holland

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.


Justin W. Hancock

This End Up

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.