Planning Your Spring Bulb Garden

By Marjorie Perrelli Day

Spring bulbs are opening this week in beautiful clumps or drifts of thousands. These crocus, tulips, daffodils and hyacinth will be blooming until the early summer. It's too late to have these in your garden this season but here’s the plan for next season: plan now, order in the summer and plant them in the fall.

Plan your bulb garden. Starting now and continuing through the first week of July, take weekly dated photographs of your garden from now until the first week of July. Try creating a dated computer slide show so you can see the real life transformation of your garden as each week passes. You can use your slideshow or picture album to find perfect spots to plant these amazingly easy to grow flowers.

Order your bulbs in summer. By ordering your bulbs before summer, you will get the best varieties at the best prices. Bulbs will be shipped to you in the fall at the appropriate planting time.

Use these guidelines to determine what you want and need: 

  • Full Sun- Bulbs need at least 5 to 10 hours of direct sunlight in the spring to produce good flowers. You can plant early bloomers under deciduous trees, before the tree leafs out. What’s shady in the summer just might be sunny in the spring.

  • Spacing- To come up with the right quantity of bulbs you need to know the bulbs spacing. Large bulbs (3" or above) space at 4 inches. Small bulbs (2.5" or below) space at 2-3 inches.

  • Drifts and Pocket plantings - you can create amazing large drifts of bulbs or just as stunning, repeating pocket plantings of bulbs. Use an odd number of pockets, and plant a minimum of 12 bulbs. Repetition planting is key. An example would be a front yard with 3 pocket plantings of 100 bulbs (300 total) of a very early bloomer, 5 plantings of 90 bulbs of a very early bloomer, 5 pockets of 36 bulbs of an early bloomer, 5 pockets of 36 bulbs of mid bloomers, 5 pockets of 36 bulbs of a late bloomers. These may sound like big numbers but, especially with the smaller bulbs, you need a lot to make an impression.

  • Bloom times- Use varieties with various bloom times to have a continuous blooming garden. Bloom times vary with weather conditions but the flowers will still bloom successively.

Bulbs and Catalogs- Buy good quality bulbs from reputable companies. If they feel too light, squishy, dried out or look moldy, send them back.

Color: Coordinate colors with your existing home and gardens color scheme. Keep in mind that warm colors like red, yellow and orange make any point where they are placed in the garden come forward, while cool colors: blue, purple, burgundy and black make the garden look larger by giving the impression that they are farther away.

Colors can be contrasting purples mixed with yellow or you can create a one-color spring border. The only rule of thumb is to stay in the same density of colors. Pastels do not feel at home with vibrant choices.