How gardeners use bulbs for year-round colour

Bulbs, tubers and corms can provide colour in your garden almost all of the growing season. Here's how to make your garden even more inviting with bulbs:

How gardeners use bulbs for year-round colour

A bulb in all seasons

  • Snowdrops, aconites and tiny irises appear in late winter.
  • In early spring, you can have cheerful daffodils and narcissi, hyacinths and tulips in almost every colour.
  • In late spring, fritillaries, bluebells, lilies-of-the-valley, irises and alliums arrive.
  • All spring bloomers should be planted in the fall.
  • Summer brings lilies, corocosmias and gladiolus. It's best to plant these in springtime.
  • In fall, come dahlias, asters and nerines.

Buy quality, not quantity

  • Purchase bulbs from a reputable dealer as bargain plants may not sprout or bloom.
  • Good-quality bulbs are free of soft spots and other blemishes.
  • Most undersized bulbs will not bloom well.
  • Check with a local nursery for the best time to plant bulbs in your region.
  • Plant bulbs as soon as possible after purchasing them so they will not dry out.

Give your bulbs a good home

  • Plant bulbs in groups for the best effect, and never plant them in rows.
  • Bulbs also appreciate good drainage, so try to plant them on a slope, in sandy soil or in well-drained raised beds.
  • Do not cut down the foliage after spring bulbs have finished blooming. Instead, let it "ripen" since the browning foliage replenishes the bulb for the next year.
  • Once the foliage pulls off with little resistance, you can remove it.
  • Dig up most summer-blooming bulbs (except hardy lilies) each fall. First cut back the foliage to an inch or two. Then brush soil off the bulbs and roots, but don't wash them.
  • Store the summer bulbs in a very cool, dry location in a paper bag or cardboard box. Fill the bag or box with vermiculite or slightly moist spaghnum peat moss.

The spring-blooming bulbs primer

  • Traditional tulips (Tulipa) tend to die out in two to three years, but species and Darwin hybrids tend to last longer. Plant early, mid and late season varieties in the full sun for longest season of bloom.
  • Pink, white, blue and even yellow hyacinths have outstanding fragrance, so plant them near a sitting area or sidewalk. They tend to die out after two to three years and need excellent drainage and full sun to very light shade.
  • Crocuses are among the first bulbs to bloom. Plant in groups of at least 10 in a space with good drainage and full sun to very light shade.
  • Snowdrops are often the first bulb to bloom. They like being in groups of about 10 and places with good drainage and full sun to very light shade.
  • The scilla's delicate, star-shaped flowers are enchanting. Like snowdrops, they like being planted in groups with full sun, especially under tall trees.

Bulbs can add some wonderful colours and smells to your garden in almost every season. With the right care and attention, you and your guests will want to be in your garden the whole year.

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