Designing with Spring-Blooming Bulbs
Because fall is the time to plant, well, everything, now’s the time to plan out what you want next spring’s bulb garden to look like — and that involves a bit of design. Now, no worries, you don’t need a degree to do this well; you simply need to follow a few tried-and-true tips and be up for a little bit of experimenting. We’re going to show you everything you need to know to design with spring blooming bulbs!
Color blocking is an easy way to create some big WOW impact without having to work too hard. The emphasis here is on the color, although to color block successfully you’ll ideally want to ensure that a planting section doesn’t overpower its neighbor in terms of height. We’ve got some tips to get you started but go ahead and gather inspiration on your own by visiting botanic gardens, arboretums, and other public plantings — these types of gardens often color block their plantings on a very large and dramatic scale. And remember — your goal is to gather ideas of colors and shapes as well as plant combos, not necessarily replicating it at that scale in your own garden.
Alternate color blocks: Choose two complimentary plants in different colors, then alternate plantings in larger groups of each color. Try Tulip Dreaming Maid and Tulip Maureen for a sweet pink-and-white combo.
Create dramatic sweeps: Create large sections of colors in “sweeps” that slightly overlap at the edges. For this one, you can simply use varying colors of tulips or dramatic color sweeps of different flowering bulbs that bloom at the same time like tulips and daffodils.
Plant stripes: Plant stripes of color with one plant in a single color in the front, another plant in a complimentary hue in the row behind it, and a final color in the back. Your stripes can be alternating colors, monochromatic shades, an ombre effect, or a rainbow design — it’s totally up to you!
- Design patterns: Technically speaking, stripes (above) are a pattern, but here’s where you can get really fancy pants. You can plant sections of bulbs in radiating curves, in circles, or in a target pattern around a focal point like a tree or a piece of garden art. Each section, ring, or curve is a different solid color — and this works on a large or a small scale! Think about it as creating pictures with your color blocks.
Tip: Your color blocked sections should feature flowering bulbs that are estimated to bloom at the same time in the growing season, not in succession to one another.
There are different ways to stagger the height of your bulbs, but before we get into them, you may be wondering, “Why on earth do I have to stagger the heights of my bulbs?” The answer is simply because it makes your garden infinitely more interesting to look at. Imagine every plant in your garden growing all to the same height. You can’t do it, can you? Well, you probably could, but you likely just bored yourself to death.
So let’s keep things interesting using one or more of these tips:
Interplant two different bulbs in the same space: Layer your planting with the larger (taller) bulb below and the smaller bulb on top of it, following recommended planting depths. Two differently-sized plants + two colors = drama in the same footprint! If you’re not sure where to start, try some of our ready-made planting combos like our White Narcissus and Blue Muscari Collection, our Spring Breeze Anemone and Hyacinth Collection, or our Crispy Cream Tulip and Daffodil Blend.
- Plant short-medium-tall bulbs in rows: This is similar to planting color blocked stripes, only using the plants’ heights to create the striping. Think short muscari, medium-sized daffodils, and taller tulips — in whatever colors you want.
Create Texture Contrast
Now that you know you can create interesting contrast by staggering the heights of your bulb plantings, you can create additional contrast with the textures of your flowering bulbs. Here’s where designers really have some fun, because some flowering bulbs have really interesting forms and textures that play well off the simpler shapes of their companion plants.
Some of our favorite textural flowering bulb combos:
Alliums: Alliums have rounded bloomheads on tall stems, and when planted over shorter flowering bulbs like some tulips, the effect is magical. A great one to consider is Allium Globemaster with its 3’ tall stems and 10” wide blooms!
Eremurus: These giants have flowering spires on stems that grow up to 8’ tall — their drama is unmatched both in size and shape. They’re late spring/early summer bloomers, so pair them with other flowering bulbs like alliums or late spring tulips for a knock-your-socks-off effect. We love Eremurus Romance, but really, they’re all stunning.
- Parrot Tulips: You love tulips, you say? Put a spin on your tulip garden by adding some parrot tulips with luscious, ruffly edges! The frills offer a different, more exotic texture than their smooth-cupped tulip sisters. Pair parrot tulips with any other mid-to-late spring blooming bulb for a charming and unexpected combo.
- Katie Elzer-Peters