It's fall bulb planting season again, and tantalizing pictures of those early-spring beauties are circulating.  Double tulipsFrilly daffodilsJumbo allium!

Buying and planting bulbs can feel like a present to your future self--a treat to look forward to after months of the winter doldrums.  Tempting as it may be to buy ten of whatever looks most dazzling, try to make your bulb purchases with a planting plan in mind.

Here are a few ideas to consider:

Plant in groups: Spring blooms have more visual impact when planted in clusters than when singled out.  Aim for clusters of at least five larger bulbs (daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, etc.) and twice that for smaller bulbs (crocuses, snowdrops, grape hyacinths, etc.).  

Plant by height: Plant taller species toward the back of your beds and shorter species toward the front.  Tiny plants like snowdrops or grape hyacinths are ideal to line pathways or any other spots where people will get to admire their delicacy up close.  You can also plant in layers: big bulbs deeper in the ground, soil, then smaller bulbs.  The smaller plants will then cover the empty space around the feet of the taller plants.

Plant by color: Sometimes a mix of colors can make a smaller space feel even smaller.  Consider a more unified color palette for your plantings: all warm tones (red/orange/yellow), soft and feminine (whites, pinks), rich jewel tones (deep purple, red, pink).  Lighter colors can brighten dark spots in your landscape.  Stark color contrasts like red and yellow can be attention-grabbing.

- Plant with friends: Because bulbs bloom earlier than many other garden favorites, they can help cover bare spots where late-blooming perennials will eventually take over.  You can also pair bulbs with other early-blooming perennials such as hellebores and bleeding heart for a more complex display.  If you're concerned about your garden looking empty as the bulbs bloom out, tuck your plantings in among other perennials that will be coming into their own when your bulbs are finished--Heuchera, Hostas, and perennial Geraniums are all great choices.


Flora Michler