I learned that the best time to start planning for your spring garden was well before the bulbs traditionally show up for sale at the local garden center. The gardeners would walk through the gardens in spring, taking notes of what worked and what didn't and what needed more of a particular color where while the spring bulbs were still up. All of the gardeners there had their wish lists finalized and orders placed before mid-July (often, much sooner) in order to secure the best pricing and selection from mail order bulb suppliers.
|Photo from a trip to Buschart Garden last spring.|
I plant bulbs in blocks - intensive drifts which may end up having wide gaps of no bulbs between them at all. Why? Two reasons:
1) First, it's usually more effective to have an intensive block of color in one area than to have a few bulbs here, a few bulbs there all over the yard. It creates a focal point, and it makes your bulb money go further because a random scattering all over the place just gets lost. Besides, in the early spring nothing is up anyway, so the empty spots don't look out of place (and this makes the intensive patches look all the more spectacular).
|Planting in drifts creates a big impact. It can also be easier |
to manage if you spread the planting over several years.
Spring bulbs are particularly
It's also easy to have spring bulbs where you don't have any other plants later in the year - for one, spring bulbs come up before most trees leaf out, so you can safely plant them in both sun and shady areas without having to worry about having the right exposure. The only things you need to worry about are: wildlife (squirrels & deer like to move/eat certain bulbs), shade from buildings, and too much water in the summer (some bulbs don't like wet summer feet - however, trees and other plants often wick up excess moisture before it can rot the bulbs so you don't need to worry).
This year, I'm expecting to receive about 465 bulbs:
|Species Tulips are small, but hardy.|
Taken at Green Spring Gardens.
- Narcissus - I'm getting 5 varieties of daffodil this year, including a fragrant type for near the front entrance and some miniature varieties to provide some contrast with the larger selections already in the garden.
- Tulipa - I don't normally get a lot of tulips, simply because tulips tend to bloom themselves to death after a few years (if the squirrels don't eat them all first). However, I make an exception for the smaller, species tulips, which are more hardy. This year, I'm getting some T. bakeri 'Lilac Wonder'. I've also gotten 'Tinka' and ' Peppermint Stick' in the past, and I love them.
- Anemone blanda 'Blue Shades' - this plant is usually only a few inches tall and blooms about the same time as hyacinth. I plan on pairing the two.
- Crocus tommasinianus - I want some more very early spring color, so crocus is what I'm going with. Next year, I may pair it with some early-blooming dwarf iris.
- Erythronium 'Pagoda' - this bulb has an usual, delicate silhouette. I plan to plant it near the mayapples.
- Galanthus woronwii - like the crocus, I'm counting on some snowdrops to extend the bloom season into late winter.
- Hyacinth orientalus 'Delft Blue' - these will go along with the anemone for a block of blue color. They're also very fragrant.
- Hyacinthoides and Scilla siberica - these have a similar color and form to hyacinth, but they're more hardy and less expensive.
- Muscari comosum 'Plumosum' - this is an unusual heirloom variety which was grown by many Colonial gardeners, including Thomas Jefferson. I'm getting it because I like having the occasional unusual plant to separate my yard from the rest of my neighborhood.
|My family at Buschart Garden. Note how they planted blue |
forget-me-nots under these Orange Empress Tulips.
k.van Bourgondien & sons, inc. - wholesalers. Requires a minimum order of $50 w/ 15% shipping/packing/insurance charge. Based in Va. Beach. Excellent selection & pricing.
McClure & Zimmerman - cheap catalog (no pictures), but good selection. Pricing is not quite as good as Bourgondien, but you can also order smaller quantities & no minimum purchase. They have some stuff that the other people don't (including hardy orchids). They'll give a 10% discount if you order early. Based in WI.
Brent & Becky's Bulbs - based in VA. They have about every bulb you can imagine, including obscure varieties. They're a mom & pop operation, so pricing is not as good as the two above - but they have more stuff. They also send out their catalog earlier than the others - early enough that you can pick more bulbs for next year while this year's bulbs are blooming.