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Bulb Pattern Design

Hi,

I would like some advice on how to plant my spring bulbs in terms of patterns. I know some of it is personal preference but would love some tips from people. I have roughly 1000 bulbs made up of a selection aimed to give interest from Jan-June. In order of blooming I have:

Crocus and dwarf iris (Jan)
Daffodils (March)
Tulips (April)
Dutch iris and alliums (May-June)

Take one of my borders like this for example:



This actually now has more perennials that is shown here. So I need to plant the bulbs around these. Do I layer them like a lasagne pot? Otherwise I don’t see how I’m going to get all the different bulbs in around the perennials. So do I dig down deep in places and build them up in layers with latest flowing alliums and Dutch irises first? 

Anyone have any ideas in patterns? Do I do rows, dotted clusters throughout? I definitely don’t have enough bulbs to fill all the empty space around the perennials in all my borders so can’t do that. As all these bulbs are perennial I really want to get it right. Even the tulips are special varieties that come back every year. 

Any tips are much appreciated. 
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Posts

  • GardenerSuzeGardenerSuze I garden in South Notts on an improved clay soil Posts: 2,311
    @Alfie_ I like to grab a handful gently throw them down and plant where they land.
    The process of making a garden is like a river running through your life.
    The place stays the same but the water, even in the stillest days always moves.
    Monty Don.
  • PlantmindedPlantminded WirralPosts: 1,395
    edited 22 September
    Definitely scatter them gently and plant them where they land to get a natural look.  Avoid lasagna planting at different depths, it’s messy.  You could combine all bulbs in a mix throughout your borders or use different mixes in different borders according to your taste.  I have a border which l plant up with a mix of 3 different tulips every year.  I mix all three sets of bulbs in a trug, then throw them gently across the bed, sometimes moving some that land close together and then plant. It’s easier to work your way along the border in one direction when planting so that you avoid treading on the unplanted bulbs. Good luck!
  • Alfie_Alfie_ Posts: 80
    Definitely scatter them gently and plant them where they land to get a natural look.  Avoid lasagna planting at different depths, it’s messy.  You could combine all bulbs in a mix throughout your borders or use different mixes in different borders according to your taste.  I have a border which l plant up with a mix of 3 different tulips every year.  I mix all three sets of bulbs in a trug, then throw them gently across the bed, sometimes moving some that land close together and then plant. It’s easier to work your way along the border in one direction when planting so that you avoid treading on the unplanted bulbs. Good luck!
    Thanks. If I don’t go for the layering technique is it ok to put all the bulbs at the same depth. Some of the tulip bulbs are really big so will need to go down on a level 3 times their depth. Will the tiny crocus bulbs we ok that far down? Or since they are all different sizes should I be digging small single holes at a time at the right depth for each bulb? 
  • PlantmindedPlantminded WirralPosts: 1,395
    edited 23 September
    The general guide for planting bulbs @Alfie_ is to dig a hole which is three times their depth, meaning that they will have soil above them which is twice their depth.  This means deeper holes for tulips than crocus bulbs.  If in doubt, it's better to plant deeper than shallower to give the bulbs better protection from the weather and predators!  I wouldn't plant very small bulbs like crocus much deeper than three times their depth though.
  • My preference is to group them. Tulips need sun, daffs can cope with some shade and moister soil. Tulips do look good marching down the border with alternating colours, but daffs need to be in clumps, single ones look silly. Bigger alliums make more impact in a group, though you can mix colours if you want. Crocuses need to be in a patch, not dotted about, both for appearance and so you know where they are and don't keep digging them up! You can plant them in grass, but you have to let the leaves die down for 6 weeks after flowering before you mow, to replenish the bulbs. I just use a spade to part lift a turf, loosen the soil, chuck in the bulbs and lay the turf back down. Small alliums could be spread around, a lot of them seed themselves about anyway, but unless you have solid clay it is easier just to scrape some soil aside and push them in gently with a finger and then put the soil back. Happy planting :)
  • Alfie_Alfie_ Posts: 80
    Thanks for all the advice people! Last question. I really want some of these new borders I have to look nice and packed. I came across this video:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qxVxUDkiwWs

    She interviews a lady who has some incredible borders:




    I’m not expecting I will end up with anything like this but she mentions the plants are so crammed in that weeds are suppressed and she can’t even get in there anyway.

    So if you have borders this packed made up of mainly perennials and evergreen shrubs you won’t be able to have many/any bulbs in the spring will you as there won’t be room? What’s the best way to have a packed border in the summer and still have room for spring bulbs? Would you have to have patches of annuals in the summer which you could use for spring bulbs? 

  • I am lucky to have large garden, so it is a bit easier, but it can be done. I have a perennial wildflower meadow that is a sea of daffodils in the spring. 0dd clumps of daffodils are tucked in suitable spots in the other beds and borders too.
    Snowdrops grow under the Hellebores and in a couple of other beds too, because I have split the clumps so many times. They disappear before other things get going. There are Crocuses in the grass  under some trees and Camassias in a very damp, grassy area. The Alliums grow between hardy geraniums or other perennials, they don't take up much space on the surface.
    I grow tulips in troughs or pots and in a bed that has dahlias in the summer. By the end of May, when the dahlias go out, I can lift them and dry them off for next year. I can't afford to buy enough for huge displays and most of my bulbs flower more than one year for me.
     I have pots for small bulbs like Iris reticulata and some pretty Muscari. There are other Muscari edging beds between primulas and Scillas and Chionadoxas are naturalised on the rockery. Some years I grow hyacinths for flowers indoors, then plant them out in one of the beds afterwards.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 47,279
    Where do you live?
    Crocus and dwarf Iris don't flower in January here - mid to end of February for those.
    Both types of Iris you have aren't reliably perennial either. They diminish over time. I'm lucky if I get a few of either in the 2nd year. You might be better potting those separately, and just slotting them in somewhere, or having them as a separate display near your house.  :)
    I often have crocus above daffs, as they aren't planted as deeply. Daffs and bigger tulip bulbs can benefit from being planted deeper, especially if your soil dries out readily at that time of year. Be aware that the smaller bulbs, regardless of type, can get dug up by squirrels too, if you have them.
    If you have species tulips, they'll certainly come back, and will multiply if they're happy, but like any other type, they need sun and well drained soil.
    Daffs vary with timing depending on the variety, so unless the ones you have are all the same, it's worth checking those carefully too, and placing them well, so that you don't have loads all flowering at the same time, then nothing   :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • Alfie_Alfie_ Posts: 80
    I am lucky to have large garden, so it is a bit easier, but it can be done. I have a perennial wildflower meadow that is a sea of daffodils in the spring. 0dd clumps of daffodils are tucked in suitable spots in the other beds and borders too.
    Snowdrops grow under the Hellebores and in a couple of other beds too, because I have split the clumps so many times. They disappear before other things get going. There are Crocuses in the grass  under some trees and Camassias in a very damp, grassy area. The Alliums grow between hardy geraniums or other perennials, they don't take up much space on the surface.
    I grow tulips in troughs or pots and in a bed that has dahlias in the summer. By the end of May, when the dahlias go out, I can lift them and dry them off for next year. I can't afford to buy enough for huge displays and most of my bulbs flower more than one year for me.
     I have pots for small bulbs like Iris reticulata and some pretty Muscari. There are other Muscari edging beds between primulas and Scillas and Chionadoxas are naturalised on the rockery. Some years I grow hyacinths for flowers indoors, then plant them out in one of the beds afterwards.
    Sounds like you have some amazing borders! 

    Yeh I just love the sight of tulip packed borders like this:



    I guess I would have to choose one border to do that with if I wanted that that doesn’t have much else in it. 

    I have a small dahlia border. It has no bulbs in it yet. When I lift the tubers, I guess I could then pack that border with spring bulbs? Would I then have to dig some of them up when I put the dahlias back in?
  • You can either do that or if you have room leave space for the dahlias between groups of tulips. I prefer to lift them and pot up or dry off as otherwise I lose track of where they are and keep digging them up accidentally!
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