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    Bulbs and Perennial Gardens

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    Overview

    Bulbs belong in the perennial garden. After all, they are perennial, and they grow like other perennials. It’s hard to imagine a sunny perennial bed without daffodils, tulips, crocuses, glads, and lilies. But even the “minor” bulbs, grape hyacinths (Muscari spp.), glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa spp.), snowdrops (Galanthus spp.), snowflakes (Leucojum spp.), Stras-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum spp.), and squills (Scilla spp.), can have a major impact on the garden, adding bright splashes of color in early spring, when they’re most welcome.

    Species bulbs are often very attractive and are becoming more widely available. They are lovely in the border and in rock gardens. But many species bulbs, even species tulips, crocuses, and daffodils, are dug illegally from the wild and imported for sale. Make sure the bulbs you buy are guaranteed to be nursery-propagated, so you don’t contribute to the endangerment of native populations. Cultivars of species bulbs are always nursery-propagated.

    Bulbs also brighten the garden in summer and fall. Besides glads and lilies, Montbretias (Crocosmia spp.), Dahlias (Dahlia pinnata hybrids), Canna Lily (Canna X generalis), Calla Lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica), tuberous begonias (Begonia Tuberhybrida Hybrids), and Fancy-Leafed Caladium (Caladium X hortulanum) are summer staples.

    Many of the summer bulbs are tender perennials and must be dug and stored over winter or treated as annuals. But there are hardy summer and fall-blooming bulbs, too: Saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) autumn crocuses (Colchicum spp.), Cyclamen (Cyclamen spp.) add jewel-like touches to the autumn garden, providing a welcome break from the goldenrods, asters, and chrysanthemums while echoing their colors.

    Growing Bulbs

    Bulbs are generally easy to grow, asking little in return for their yearly display. But there are a few things you can do to make bulbs more effective in your garden. Forst, grow them in well-drained soil. If voles eat your bulbs, there are two lines of defense: Plant them in gravel-lined holes or plant them in buried wire cages. If squirrels or chipmunks are the problems, discourage them by planting bulbs in a dense groundcover.

    Fertilizing Bulbs

    Bulbs need a complete food like other perennials, not just bonemeal as is often recommended. Give them a topdressing of compost or a good organic fertilizer in spring. And their foliage ripens after bloom, don’t mow or cut it down as soon as bloom fades.

    Growing bulbs among other perennials or in a groundcover will hide the foliage as it yellows. Daffodils and hostas are a classic low-maintenance combination: By the time the daffodils have faded, the hostas foliage has grown up to cover them. When bulb foliage has completely yellowed, it has served its purpose, and you can cut it off.

    Best Bulbs

    Spring blooming

    Anemones (Anemone spp.), Crocuses (Crocus spp.), Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis), Snowdrops (Galanthus spp.), Summer snowflake (Leucojum aestivum), Daffodils (Narcissus spp.), Stars-of-Bethlehem(Ornithogalum spp.), Tulips(Tulipa spp.)

    Fall/Winter blooming

    Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa spp.), Danford iris (Iris danfordiae)

    Summer/Fall blooming

    Spanish bluebell (Scilla hispanica), Spider lilies (Lycoris spp.), Grape hyacinths (Muscari spp.)

    Video Credits: Garden Answer
    Image Credits: matthiasboeckel

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