Ecology + Design

Don’t Miss Bulb Season! GJL’s Guide to Designing with Spring Bulbs

For most of our readers, November probably conjures up images of warm-toned foliage, leaves scattering to the ground, dark evenings and the first biting temperatures. As your resident Landscape Ecologist, I’m here to remind you that November meansspring color!


Bulbs are a fabulous plant group because of their beautiful early-spring flower blooms (before most plants even have foliage!) and relative low maintenance. They are a must for a landscape with four-season interest!

Spring-flowering bulbs require a wintering period to develop roots and gather nutrients for a successful bloom.

Therefore, they must be planted in the fall, before the ground is frozen. November is Bulb Season!

Examples of bulbs include: daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, alliums, lilies, chinodoxas, and snow drops. Corms behave similarly to bulbs but are botanically different; they include crocus, gladiolus, and autumn crocus. Check out the gallery below for the incredible color variety available!


Since bulbs can flower from early spring (as early as February!) to late spring, depending upon the species, it is important to design your planting in accordance with the bloom schedule. Successive blooms ensure a vibrant, beautiful garden all season long. Foliage development of deciduous shrubs and perennials should also be taken into account. Bulbs can provide color in the foreground of a bare shrub in early spring, or the colors can compliment and enhance the beauty of early-blooming perennials.

Bulbs look the most stunning in dense plantings. The average home gardener might plant dozens or a few hundred throughout their landscape. A Green Jay Landscape Design planting numbers several thousand!

Thankfully, bulbs come in various heights and sizes—creating layers of heights and textures creates a dramatic visual display.

Tall late blooming bulbs including ornamental garlic and nodding onions are a great compliment to ornamental grass gardens, which are cut down in March creating space for bulbs. After the bulbs bloom, the bed will fill with beautiful waves of grasses, blowing in the breeze.

Post-bloom, the foliage of bulb plants begins to droop and yellow. Succession with larger, later-blooming bulbs is a good way to hide the dying early-bloomers. It’s important to resist cutting down the near-dormant plants too early – they need their photosynthesis factories (leaves) to create and store sugars for dormancy.


Each species and cultivar of bulb prefers a particular planting depth and spacing. Prepare the soil before planting with an organic fertilizer such as bone meal. Consider rodent repellant. When first planted, bulbs may attract the interest of neighborhood rodents. As with all plantings, a proper irrigation schedule can make or break a plant’s success.

Bulbs are perennials, meaning they will go dormant in the summer and will begin to develop roots in late fall in winter, in time for the next spring’s bloom. They repeat this cycle every year. Fertilization throughout the bloom period will help the bulb in the over-wintering process.

Now that you’ve envisioned the delightful bursts of color emerging from your barren winter landscape in just four short months…it’s time to order your bulbs and schedule your planting!! Call us for design, installation and maintenance.

Jay Archer
Green Jay Landscape Design





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