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How to Layer Bulbs and Perennials for Nonstop Bloom

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How to Layer Bulbs and Perennials for Nonstop Bloom

When summer hits do you wish you had a little bit more happening in your garden? 

There are loads of bulbs and perennials that are summer (and even fall) bloomers, and when you take some time to plan your garden to take advantage of these staggered bloom times, your garden can explode into almost nonstop color! 

Preparation is Key

First things first! Take stock of what is existing in your garden right now, noting your plants’ bloom time, height, color, and texture. These are the elements you’ll want to cover in order to have extended blooming. When you look over your list, you’ll see where the gaps are — and that’s what you want to fill in.

Maybe you have some summer bloomers, but they’re all in pink and none are taller for the back of the border. Or perhaps you realize that you’ve inadvertently crowded all of your summer bloomers in one spot, or the colors you’ve planted seem kind of muddy. Don’t despair; this is all good information to have.

Mind the Gaps

Once you have the information above, it’s time to fill in the gaps. Follow these steps to get that nonstop bloom you crave:

  1. Make a list of the gaps (“no mid-summer thru fall bloom,” “need taller plants for late summer color in purple,” “early summer color is clashing,” etc.).

  2. Now make a list of summer-blooming bulbs and perennials you love and want to add, noting their color, bloom time, height, and texture just as you did with your existing plants.

    Here are some to get you going and inspire you:
Bulbs Perennials
Canna, mid-late summer Hollyhock, summer
Begonia, mid-summer to fall Knock Out® rose, spring-fall
Crocosmia, summer Rudbeckia, mid-summer to fall
Dahlia, mid-summer to fall Gaillardia, summer-fall
Agapanthus, summer Coreopsis, mid-summer - early fall
Calla, late spring-summer Butterfly bush, early summer-fall
Lily, early-mid summer Bee balm, mid-late summer
  1. Determine what bulbs and perennials you’d like to add to your garden.

  2. Following your area’s recommendations for best planting times as well as planting guidelines for the material you want to add, create a schedule for adding these plants to your garden. Get your bulb order in, and be on the lookout for plant sales at your local garden center.

  3. Be patient. Creating a garden with layers of bulbs and perennials for nonstop bloom can take a while to complete. And when you’re a gardener, you know that no garden is ever really complete, right?

Fall layered perennial garden

Design Tips

So you have your bulbs and perennials, and you’re ready to plant — now what? How do you add these plants in smartly, and with a nod to garden design?

Remember to have evergreen plants in your bed

Shrubs, ornamental trees, and some ornamental grasses can add winter form and texture to a perennial- and bulb-heavy garden.

 

Plant in groupings

Designers call these “massed plantings” or “drifts,” and they create more impact than planting one bulb here and one perennial there. Bulbs, in particular, are much more effective when planted in groupings. Plant up to 50 small bulbs, 12 medium-sized bulbs, and 3-6 large bulbs for large swaths of color.

 

Plant color blocks

Instead of mixed dahlias, plant a grouping of one type of dahlia in one color next to a different grouping of lilies, for example. Mixing colors diffuses the impact — go bold instead.

Use perennials to disguise unsightly foliage

As bulbs bloom and their foliage fades, the look can be a bit unattractive until it’s time to cut them back. Plan your shorter perennials to grow in and cover that legginess or ratty foliage and you’ll be good to go.

 

It really is that easy to have a professional look with a DIY spirit! 

 

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  • Katie Elzer-Peters
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