Spring Bulbs, A Secret Garden

If you're the kind of person who loves a beautiful surprise, then bulbs were made with you in mind. Like hidden treasures, these little pre-packaged gifts from Mother Nature are all boxed up in neat brown wrappers. All you have to do is plant them in the ground this fall and come next spring, gems of color and fragrance will emerge to delight you.

I've found planting bulbs to one of the easiest ways to garden. In fact, once they're planted, many varieties will come back year after year with little additional effort on your part. Since I can't image a spring without the color and fragrance of these flowering jewels, I won't let a fall season go by without adding buckets of bulbs to my garden.

TulipsChoices, Choices
There are all kinds of spring-flowering bulbs. Some of the most popular are tulips, daffodils (narcissus), crocuses, hyacinths, snowflakes (leucojum), scilla, snowdrops (galanthus), grape hyacinths (muscari) and alliums. Within these categories, there is an almost dizzying array of individual varieties, each with its own color, shape and size. To get an idea of the huge selection, thumb through a book or magazine on bulbs or better yet, send away for a free mail-order catalog. You'll be amazed at the choices.

Bulb Basics
Nearly everyone can grow bulbs. They can be planted almost anywhere as long as the soil is well drained and there is some sunlight. Many spring bulbs are up and blooming long before the trees leaf out, so they can be planted under tree canopies. They can also be used effectively in containers, window boxes and planters. In fact, if you don't want to wait until spring to see these beauties, you can "force" some varieties of bulbs to bloom inside.

Growing Bulbs Indoors
With a little coaxing, certain bulbs will bloom indoors, filling your house with fresh flowers. Two of my favorites:

PaperwhitesPaperwhite Narcissus - These bulbs are easy to coax into bloom, but be sure to buy plenty, and pot several every 2 to 3 weeks for continuous bloom. A crowded grouping looks best, so pack them into any container you can find. Place the bulbs on a layer of stones, glass beads or marble chips and carefully fill in with more to hold bulbs but not cover them completely. Add water to reach the bottom of the bulb. In 3 to 5 weeks, you'll have gorgeous flowers.


AmaryllisAmaryllis - This is a popular winter holiday plant with a huge flower on a long stalk. For seasonal display, plant bulbs in early November. Pot them in a clean container with the neck of the bulb above the soil. Place in a cool, sunny spot, water sparingly until the first sprout appears and keep moist. In about 8 weeks, the bulb will bloom. Since the flower is heavy, staking may be required.

Keep in mind that some bulbs, such as tulips and crocuses, require a period of dormancy to rebloom, so in the South and Southwest some varieties must be pre-cooled and replanted each year. Check with your local garden center or other reliable sources of information for the bulbs best suited to your area. Here are some more general tips to keep in mind:

  • Choose Healthy Bulbs - No matter what variety you choose, look for healthy, firm bulbs that are free of mildew or soft spots. While a sack full of discounted bulbs might be tempting, if they are not healthy, they're not worth the money.
  • Keep Size in Mind - Bulbs come in a wide range of sizes. An allium bulb can be the size of your fist, while a crocus is only as big as your thumbnail. How do you know the right depth to plant these different sizes? Usually they come with planting instructions, but a good rule to keep in mind is to plant the bulb 3 times as deep as the bulb is tall. In general, the bigger the bulb, the larger the flower. If you're planting a small area, it's worth it to buy large bulbs.
  • Extend the Bloom Time - Part of the elusive beauty of spring flowering bulbs is that the blooms seem to be gone before you know it. If you would like to enjoy them just a little longer, plant bulbs that will bloom early, mid- and late spring.
  • Pack Them In - For a colorful show of flowers, plant bulbs in large drifts. Plant in clusters of at least 5 to 7 bulbs, or better still, fill in large areas or create wide winding patterns.
  • Coordinate the Colors - I like to plant bulbs in large groupings of a single color, or shades within the same color family. These color blocks heighten the drama of the design. As you think about which colors to use, make choices that will complement the surroundings. If the bulbs will flower near your house or other spring flowering plants, select colors that will blend or provide a pleasing contrast. This will help you "paint" the mood you're trying to achieve. Soft pastel colors evoke a calm feeling, while hot reds and yellows visually 'jump forward" and give an area a bolder look.

Some Favorite Tulip Combos:
Want to be a little more adventuresome? Try mixing different colors together. A few of my favorites:

  • hot pink ('Pink Impression') and orange ('Princess Irene') tulips with a touch of deep blue (gray hyacinth)
  • dark purple ('Queen of the Night') and violet ('Negrita') tulips with sky blue pansies or violas
  • pastel pink ('Angelique') and soft primrose yellow ('Creme Upstar') tulips

3 Spring Bulb Garden Designs

Beginner's Bulb Garden
This delightful combination of bulbs in beautiful spring colors of purple, blue, soft pink, yellow, and creamy white will enliven your garden. It is a perfect collection for small gardens, or by an entrance or patio.

Code Plant Name # of Bulbs Description
A Lavender Crocus 16 Various shades of purple, 4" - 5" tall, March/April bloom. Plant in full sun to partial shade, 4" deep.
B 'Spellbinder' Daffodils 10 Pale yellow, fading to greenish-yellow with a pale yellow trumpet, 16" - 18" tall, midseason bloom. Plant in full sun to partial shade, 6" deep.
C Dwarf Alliums 20 Purple, globe shaped flowers, 12" tall, late season bloom. Plant in full sun, 5" deep.
D Grape Hyacinths 24 Blue flowers, 6" tall, April/May bloom. Plant in full to partial shade, 5" deep.
E 'Delft Blue' Hyacinths 5 Soft lilac blue, 8" - 12" tall, April bloom. Plant in full sun, 6" deep.
F 'Ice Follies' Narcissus 6 Creamy white with a bright yellow cup, 16" - 18" tall, early to midseason bloom. Plant in full sun to partial shade, 6" deep.
G 'Golden Melody' Tulips 8 Soft buttercup yellow with yellow anthers, 20" tall, April/May bloom. Plant in full sun, 6" deep.
H 'Pink Impression' Tulips 8 Large flowering, soft pink fading to rose, long stems make it perfect for cutting, 20"-22" tall, April/May bloom. Plant in full sun, 6" deep.
I 'Rembrandt' Tulips (mixed) 8 Bright feathering in various colors, 20" tall, May bloom. Plant in full sun, 6" deep.



Bouquet of Color Garden
Capture the color and perfume of spring with this beautiful display of flowering bulbs. This garden is designed to unfold into a picture-perfect show of blooms along a walkway, fence or in front of a deep shrub border.

Code Plant Name # of Bulbs Description
A 'Spellbinder' Daffodils 10 Pale yellow, fading to greenish-yellow with a pale yellow trumpet, 16" - 18" tall, midseason bloom. Plant in full sun to partial shade, 6" deep.
B 'Ice Follies' Narcissus 6 Creamy white with a bright yellow cup, 16" - 18" tall, early to midseason bloom. Plant in full sun to partial shade, 6" deep.
C 'Pink Impression' Tulips 12 Large flowering, soft pink fading to rose, long stems make it perfect for cutting, 20"-22" tall, April/May bloom. Plant in full sun, 6" deep.
D 'Rembrandt' Tulips (mixed) 6 Bright feathering in various colors, 20" tall, May bloom. Plant in full sun, 6" deep.
E 'Angelique' Tulips 6 Peony flowering, pale pink with cream and rose blushes, 18" tall, April bloom. Plant in full sun, 6" deep.
F 'Apricot Beauty' Tulips 6 Soft salmon with rose blush, 18" tall, April/May bloom. Plant in full sun, 6" deep.
G 'Delft Blue' Hyacinths 6 Soft lilac blue, 8" - 12" tall, April bloom. Plant in full sun, 6" deep.
H Lavender Crocus 20 Various shades of purple, 4" - 5" tall, March/April bloom. Plant in full sun to partial shade, 4" deep.
I Grape Hyacinths 30 Blue flowers, 6" tall, April/May bloom. Plant in full to partial shade, 5" deep.
J Dutch Iris 11 Blue flowers, 18" tall, May/June bloom. Plant in full sun, 6" deep.
K Pink Hyacinths 6 Pink flowers, 8" - 12" tall, April bloom. Plant in full sun, 6" deep.
L Yellow Hyacinths 6 Yellow flowers, 8" - 12" tall, April bloom. Plant in full sun, 6" deep.
M Botanical Narcissus 6 Various shade of yellow, cream and ivory, good for naturalizing, 18" - 24", early season bloom. Plant in full sun to partial shade, 6" deep.
N 'Queen of the Night' Tulips 8 Deep purple-maroon, 24" tall, May bloom. Plant in full sun, 6" deep.



The Master Bulbs Garden
Imagine a dazzling array of spring flowers filling your garden with charm and grace. This garden includes my favorite colors and varieties of spring bulbs (tulips, narcissus, hyacinths, crocus, iris, and Glory of the Snow) to create a special design for those who desire an exceptional burst of blooms.

Code Plant Name # of Bulbs Description
A 'Spellbinder' Daffodils 15 Pale yellow, fading to greenish-yellow with a pale yellow trumpet, 16" - 18" tall, midseason bloom. Plant in full sun to partial shade, 6" deep.
B 'Ice Follies' Narcissus 8 Creamy white with a bright yellow cup, 16" - 18" tall, early to midseason bloom. Plant in full sun to partial shade, 6" deep.
C Botanical Narcissus 12 Various shade of yellow, cream and ivory, good for naturalizing, 18" - 24", early season bloom. Plant in full sun to partial shade, 6" deep.
D 'Pink Impression' Tulips 8 Large flowering, soft pink fading to rose, long stems make it perfect for cutting, 20"-22" tall, April/May bloom. Plant in full sun, 6" deep.
E 'Rembrandt' Tulips (mixed) 8 Bright feathering in various colors, 20" tall, May bloom. Plant in full sun, 6" deep.
F 'Angelique' Tulips 8 Peony flowering, pale pink with cream and rose blushes, 18" tall, April bloom. Plant in full sun, 6" deep.
G 'Apricot Beauty' Tulips 8 Soft salmon with rose blush, 18" tall, April/May bloom. Plant in full sun, 6" deep.
H 'Pink Frosting' Hyacinths 4 Deep pink flowers, 8" - 12" tall, April bloom. Plant in full sun, 6" deep.
I Yellow Hyacinths 4 Yellow flowers, 8" - 12" tall, April bloom. Plant in full sun, 6" deep.
J 'Delft Blue' Hyacinths 4 Soft lilac blue, 8" - 12" tall, April bloom. Plant in full sun, 6" deep.
K Lavender Crocus 20 Various shades of purple, 4" - 5" tall, March/April bloom. Plant in full sun to partial shade, 4" deep.
L Grape Hyacinths 30 Blue flowers, 6" tall, April/May bloom. Plant in full to partial shade, 5" deep.
M Dutch Iris 12 Blue flowers, 18" tall, May/June bloom. Plant in full sun, 6" deep.
N Chiondoxa lucialiae 12 Blue, star shaped flowers, 5" - 6" tall, April bloom. Plant in full sun to partial shade, 4" deep.
O Species Crocus 20 Range of flower colors from yellow to blue, 4" - 6" tall, early season bloom. Plant in full sun to partial shade, 4" deep.
P 'Queen of the Night' Tulips 8 Deep purple-maroon, 24" tall, May bloom. Plant in full sun, 6" deep.



General Instructions:
If you are planting a large area with bulbs, measure out the site and lay a tarp next to your work area. Dig out the area to be planted to a depth of 8 to 10 inches, shoveling dirt onto the tarp.

Following your design, use flour, sand, or bone meal to outline the areas to be planted. Check the planting depth recommended for each type of bulb. Remember, the general rule is to plant bulbs 3 times as deep as they are tall.

Add a granular bulb fertilizer (9-9-6). The numbers refer to the ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the mix.

Begin planting the deepest bulbs first in each of their respective areas. Fill in other areas with soil to bring the level up to their recommended depth. Arrange those bulbs following the plan.

Cover the entire area with topsoil.

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