Inspiration for Spring Bulb Design

1. ‘Caramel’ heuchera (Heuchera ‘Caramel’, Zones 4–9) 2. ‘Powis Castle’ artemisia (Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’, Zones 6–9) 3. ‘Orange Princess’ tulip (Tulipa ‘Orange Princess’, Zones 4–8) 4.‘Red Giant’ mustard (Brassica juncea ‘Red Giant’, annual) 5.Lettuce (Lactuca sativa cv., annual)

Fall is around the corner, and while you are probably getting ready to start decorating your garden with pumpkins and hay bales, this is also the time to think ahead—way ahead—to spring!

Every year around March, I wish I’d thought about planting my spring bulbs back in the fall. It’s unfortunate that right at the time the season is at its peak color, one has to prepare for when it’s at its bleakest. My mind rebels at the thought of those frosted mornings when I long for color in the landscape but to no avail. While it’s an image I’d rather not call to mind right now, it is motivation to get those bulbs in the ground.

If you are like me, do yourself a favor now and order your spring blooming bulbs in preparation for planting this fall. That way, you’ll have something special to look forward to this winter.

Below you’ll find some of our favorite combinations for spring plantings that will help you as you’re placing bulbs this fall. For even more information, check out how to plant your bulbs so that they appear as a natural feature in the landscape in Naturalizing Spring Bulbs.


Great spring bulb combinations to plant now


Red tulips are classic and all-purpose

It’s hard to go wrong with classic red tulips. They go with virtually anything. But an underplanting of pale blue forget-me-nots might be the best thing to lift them to superstar status.

1. Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris cv., Zones 3–8)   2. ‘Jan Reus’ tulip (Tulipa ‘Jan Reus’, Zones 4–8)   3. Forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica, Zones 5–9)


Upright forms, striking colors

The stiff, upright blades of Bowles’ golden sedge serve two purposes in this striking combo: They act as a contrasting backdrop for the magenta tulips, and they mimic the tulips’ upright stems, drawing even more notice to both.

1. Bowles’ golden sedge (Carex elata ‘Aurea’, Zones 5–9)   2. ‘Negrita’ tulip (Tulipa ‘Negrita’, Zones 4–8)


Sunshine and blue skies

You’ve been waiting so long for clear skies and the warmth of the spring sun, so celebrate them with cheery yellow tulips and pale azure forget-me-nots.

1. ‘Golden Parade’ tulip (Tulipa ‘Golden Parade’, Zones 4–8)   2. ‘Victoria Blue’ forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica ‘Victoria Blue’, Zones 5–9)   3. Rysi™ Gold wallflower (Erysimum ‘Innrysigol’, Zones 3–7)



Another delicate play on pastels

Pale blue ‘Valerie Finnis’ grape hyacinth might be overpowered by a big, bold, bright yellow daffodil. Pair it instead with a more delicate version—in both size and hue—to make a harmonious mix.

1.‘Xit’ daffodil (Narcissus ‘Xit’, Zones 3–9)   2. Grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum, Zones 4–8)   3. ‘Hawera’ daffodil (Narcissus ‘Hawera’, Zones 3–9)   4. ‘Scarlet Baby’ tulip (Tulipa ‘Scarlet Baby’, Zones 4–8)


A bouquet of spring bulbs

Bulbs are most often planted in drifts or small clumps, but sometimes it’s nice to plant an in-the-ground bouquet. Save a few bulbs from each of your plantings in fall, and pick a special spot to mix them together.

1.‘Xit’ daffodil (Narcissus ‘Xit’, Zones 3–9)   2. Grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum, Zones 4–8)   3. ‘Hawera’ daffodil (Narcissus ‘Hawera’, Zones 3–9)   4. ‘Scarlet Baby’ tulip (Tulipa ‘Scarlet Baby’, Zones 4–8)


Watch the blooms evolve

Just before a grape hyacinth blooms, its architectural flower form is most apparent. The hints of blue peeking through promise that this color-coordinated combo with poppy anemone will be even more stunning in a few days.

1. ‘Mr. Fokker’ poppy anemone (Anemone coronaria ‘Mr. Fokker’, Zones 8–11)   2. ‘Saffier’ grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum ‘Saffier’, Zones 4–8)



The flowers are fabulous even when they fade

These alliums might not be colorful anymore, but the seed heads are still striking against the deep burgundy backdrop of a smoke bush. As the capsules ripen, they’ll fade to beige and burst open, revealing the seeds inside.

1. ‘Ambassador’ allium (Allium ‘Ambassador’, Zones 4–8)   2. ‘Princess Victoria Louise’ Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale ‘Princess Victoria Louise’, Zones 3–9)   3. ‘Velvet Cloak’ smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Velvet Cloak’, Zones 5–9)


Plant more than one variety

Alliums aren’t just purple. There are a few out-of-the-ordinary colors, too, and it’s fun to experiment and mix them up. Planting more than one variety together lets you observe their bloom times, which will open your eyes to other pairing opportunities.

1. ‘Silver Spring’ allium (Allium ‘Silver Spring’, Zones 4–8)   2. Allium (Allium atropurpureum, Zones 3–8)   3. Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis, Zones 4–7)   4. Carolina geranium (Geranium carolinianum, Zones 4–8)


Bring chives out of the herb garden

If you’ve ever grown chives, you know how prolifically they reproduce. If you’re running out of room for the divisions in your herb garden, add them to your borders. Here, they echo the color of the weigela and add a vertical element to the mounding plants around them.

1. ‘Minuet’ weigela (Weigela florida ‘Minuet’, Zones 5–8)   2. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum, Zones 5–11)   3. ‘Joanna Reed’ catmint (Nepeta ‘Joanna Reed’, Zones 4–9)   4. ‘Sugar Plum’ heuchera (Heuchera ‘Sugar Plum’, Zones 4–9)   5. Sedum (Sedum cv., Zones 3–11)



A spring garden party of colors

Iceland poppies in a mix of bright colors are cheerful on their own, but add some daffodils and you’ve got a lively party. Pass the champagne!

1. 3D™ daffodil blend (Narcissus cvs., Zones 3–9)   2. ‘Champagne Bubbles Mix’ Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule ‘Champagne Bubbles Mix’, Zones 2–7)


A planting that evolves as the weeks go by

Daffodils typically bloom before tulips. Take advantage of this fact to create a planting that moves with the season. The daffodils emerge first and bloom just as the tulip buds start to show color. As the daffodils fade, the tulips will peak.

1. ‘Thalia’ daffodil (Narcissus ‘Thalia’, Zones 3–9)   2. ‘Pink Diamond’ tulip (Tulipa ‘Pink Diamond’, Zones 4–8). This combination evolves as the season goes on, with the ‘Pink Diamond’ tulips brightening as the daffodils fade.


Bold colors, big charm

This classic daffodil is what we envision in our minds when someone says “daffodil.” It’s big, bright, and happy. Underplanting it with the speckled leaves and pink and purple blooms of a lungwort makes it pop even more. Spring is here!

1. ‘Carlton’ daffodil (Narcissus ‘Carlton’, Zones 3–9)   2. Lungwort (Pulmonaria cv., Zones 2–8)


For more spring garden inspiration, see how to plant spring bulbs in containers.

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  1. User avater
    TerriNPhillips 10/25/2018

    Wonderful info

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