I hate to say this out loud, but the window of opportunity for planning next year’s spring bulb display is rapidly closing. Foliage from the earliest bulbs is quickly fading; foliage from the earliest perennials is quickly expanding. Within a week or two it will be difficult to easily see where the bulb gaps are and, if you’re like me, come autumn there’s no way you’ll remember, with much accuracy, what needs planting where.
There’s a few ways to tackle planning for next year’s bulbs: notes, sketches, photos and place markers.
If you have a wide open area (a lawn, a new garden bed) or an area with no bulbs this year, it’s simple enough to jot down what you’d like and wait for the bulb catalogues to appear. You may want to tackle this as a multi-year project, adding more and more as you see what the affect is each spring. For example, if you think you’ll be planting shrubs or trees in the future, you likely will want to wait to plan or plant bulbs. If, on the other hand, you know the area will always be lawn or meadow, you could scatter daffodil or Scilla over the whole area. For me, an example of taking notes is: ‘Plant daffodils, several varieties, in two’s or three’s amongst the Echinacea growing between the two parallel paths in the Island bed.” I know exactly what I mean with that brief description.
It gets a bit trickier when you want to add bulbs in areas that are already planted with perennials, shrubs and bulbs. The last thing you want is to be merrily digging away only to discover you’ve sliced in half a prized Allium or Fritillaria bulb! (Trust me, it’s a moment of horror!) This is where planning and a bit of artistry or technical know-how comes in handy.
If you love to sketch, you could draw (or paint if you’re truly artistic!) the area you want to augment with bulbs, colour code (or not) for different bulbs and clearly indicate where things should be planted. This is kind of fun and could provide a lasting piece of art.
You can use computer skills to augment photos of areas. Here, for example, I’ve taken a photo of my Hyacinth micro garden – just a corner of the Island bed where purple and white Hyacinths bloom first, followed by daffs and then Lupins, Aster, Echinacea, Hemerocallis… I used the Paint software on my laptop to add dabs of colour to indicate how I’d like to expand the Hyacinth area. Although it gives me a good enough indication of what the final product will be, I’ve also jotted some notes (“start below the daylily and continue to the Spirea”).
In tightly planted areas that already have bulbs I use stones or sticks to remind me where to plant new ones. Below on the left the foliage from both the Galanthus ad the Colchicum will be gone come October so I put a row of stones to indicate where to plant new bulbs. On the right, back in the Hyacinth corner, I used Popsicle sticks (bought at the dollar store) – you can barely see them now so I hope I can see them (and they survive the summer) come October!
The area below has clumps of Echinacea (can’t see them yet) surrounded by Crocus and Narcissus. There are; however, two clumps with no bulbs at all – I just transplanted them last week. So I need to remember which clumps have and don’t have bulbs already. This photo, in October, will remind me.
There you have it. This coming Monday is Victoria Day in Canada – a national holiday – I hope to spend a few hours looking at pictures of pretty bulbs and planning next spring’s bulb display.