No single class of plants offers as much as bulbs. The term “bulb” has come to include a wide range of plants that are perennial, herbaceous and require a dormant season during which a large storage root or stem remains in the ground from which the plant will grow again the next year. When their dormancy is completed, they require only moisture and a pattern of rising temperatures to supplement the signals from their internal clocks.
As garden plants, fall bulbs are as near to foolproof as you can get! Given their versatility, bulbs should enjoy a place in every planting scheme. When you think your garden is crowded, look around carefully and you will discover nooks and corners into which a few shrubs and lightly shadowing trees, in grassy places, on the lee side of hedges, between the herbaceous plants in the borders, wedged among paving stones — in all sorts of places, these cheerful, willing flowers will grow and blossom.
Bulbs, like most plants, look best in clusters. When mixing varieties of fall bulbs on their own, good effects can be achieved by combining early and late varieties, tall and short growers and hues that blend well to your eye. Some combinations which work well include: Anemone under mid-season Tulips; Snowdrops interplanted with Large Cup Narcissus; Eranthis with the bold Trumpet Narcissus; Lilies in among late Tulips; and Grape Hyacinths with any of the large-flowered Narcissus.
Around trees and shrubs, use your imagination as a guide to create planes, islands and shadows that complement the lines of the basic planting, while also introducing attractive blends of color. Perhaps the most common and thoroughly delightful example of this technique is a mat of blue Grape Hyacinths to balance the spreading branches of yellow Forsythia. Yellow Daffodils under fruit trees or white Daffodils under Dogwoods are also effective combinations. Daffodils are lovely, long-lived, and inexpensive. Best of all, deer will not touch them. Don’t be shy about applying ingenuity to your scheme — most of your surprises will be pleasant ones!
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