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Plant a Show-Stopping Spring Display
September 2001 (Updated February 2011)
Spring is always an exciting time of the year for gardeners. Those first blooms are a sign of better things to come. Planting spring flowering bulbs in your garden can be an exciting way to add color at a time when most perennials, trees, and shrubs are just beginning to awaken from their long, winter slumber.
Crocus, hyacinths, daffodils, scilla, and many species tulips will be the first to add color to your landscape, usually in early April. Next are mid-season bloomers (appearing from late April to mid-May) which include tulips, late blooming daffodils, muscari, and crown imperials. Lastly are the late bloomers which bloom from mid-May into late June. These include late blooming tulips (such as Critical Mass Tulip blend) and late blooming daffodils (such as Narcissus ‘Yellow Cheerfulness’). Always remember that when selecting bulbs, the later the bloom, the longer into the season it will take for the foliage to die back. It is important to not remove a bulb’s foliage until it is yellowed and dry, or you will be starving the bulb of much needed nutrients to help it overwinter and come back the following spring.
With the right planning, you can create a truly show-stopping bulb display. For maximum impact, try planting bulbs of the same bloom time—unfortunately, this will result in a short-lived display. To extend the bloom period of your planting try mixing different bulbs with varying bloom times—doing so will create a garden that blooms from early April until late June. Bulbs can also be planted in drifts of color for a bold statement, or by mixing different colors and varieties you can get more of a ‘tapestry’ effect.
When it comes to planting your bulbs, you will want to do so in the fall before the ground freezes—unless you enjoy using a pick-axe!—usually around mid-October for the Green Bay area. Bulbs should be planted at a depth equal to 2-3 times the width of the bulb. Spacing depends on the type of bulb and personal preference. Most daffodils can be planted 8-9 inches apart, and most tulips around 6 inches apart. If you want to create more of an impact, try planting your bulbs ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ so the sides of each bulb touch each other. If a formal look is more your style, get out your tape measure and equally space all of your bulbs. Some bulbs can also be ‘naturalized’ by simply scattering them in the landscape and planting them where they fall (refer to the ‘Naturalizing Bulbs’ article). Make sure all bulbs are planted in a sunny, well-drained location and water thoroughly after planting to help establish a strong root system before the ground freezes.
Most stores with a Lawn & Garden department will carry bulbs, but your selection will be limited to whatever the store decides to order that year. If you are looking for a wider variety of bulbs, try ordering from a catalog or an online source. Here at the garden we order most of our bulbs from Colorblends (www.colorblends.com) and Brent & Becky’s (www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com). Plan on ordering your bulbs by the end of August for fall delivery.