Designing with Bulbs

Designing with Bulbs

There are so many ways to incorporate spring and early summer blooming bulbs into your gardens. Let me illustrate for you some of my design techniques…


The first thing to realize is that in April and May, most of your perennials are either still dormant or just mounds of leaves. Look at the picture of a client’s rock garden above. I added clusters of different types of tulips of various sizes and types, some anemones, and one clump of late blooming daffodils. Voila! Instant color.


Naturalizing is another way to create magic with bulbs. On this hillside, we dug up patches of ground cover and in each patch we added 7-9 daffodil bulbs. They continue to multiply and increase in beauty every year.


I purposely place lots of bulbs under shrubs that look like “dead sticks” in the early spring. Above you can see a glossy Abelia. This plant blooms from July through October but in April, it just looks so drab. By the time the Abelia leafs out, the bulbs will be going dormant.


I like to marry different bulbs together in combination. This is NOT a trick photo. I am nearly six feet tall and those ‘Temple of Beauty’ tulips reach almost to my waist. By surrounding the clump of 7 tulip bulbs with 11 grape hyacinth bulbs, it makes for a much more interesting display.


Here you see one single hyacinth surrounded by a sea of Scilla siberica. You can plant big bulbs and little bulbs in the same place. Because bulbs are planted twice as deep as the bulb itself, the fragrant hyacinth is planted below the Scillas which are planted near the surface. We call this “layering”. The Scilla naturalizes beautifully, filling your garden with blue beauty year after year. They will even seed into your lawn!


I like to figure out how I can combine perennials and a bulbs together that bloom at the same time. In our gardens this yellow Baptisia blooms with  purple Alliums. What a difference it makes to have these two contrasting colors together.