Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
September, 2004
Regional Report

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Give crocuses room to naturalize in borders near the house where they can be seen up close.

Naturalizing Spring-Flowering Bulbs

One way to add beauty to your landscape without a lot of effort and time is to naturalize with spring-flowering bulbs. It's a very effective gardening technique that allows you to establish low-maintenance plantings that will return year after year.

Naturalizing means planting bulbs throughout the landscape that eventually thrive and multiply without any assistance from the gardener. Crocus, grape hyacinth and narcissus are some of the most useful bulbs for naturalizing. They are hardy and adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions.

Look around your landscape and find settings that are a natural for adding this effect. Along a stream bank; by a pond; at the edges of pathways, trails, and shrub borders; among ground covers; in landscape berms; on grassy banks; and along the outskirts of the garden are some areas bulbs can be naturalized.

Louise Beebe Wilder describes naturalizing in her book, Adventures with Hardy Bulbs:

"Perhaps the best way is to put our bulbs in a basket, one kind at a time, and throw them out in handfuls, planting them just where they fall, sowing thinly toward the center of the area or toward the edges, as we please, avoiding a uniform distribution and trailing away with a few bulbs here, a few there, sometimes only one, as if the wind had a hand in the business."

Bulbs For Naturalizing
Some of the most commonly naturalized bulbs include:
Grape hyacinth
Chionodoxa or Glory-of-the-snow
Winter aconite
Galanthus or snowdrop
Kaufmanniana and clusiana tulips
'King Alfred' and 'Mount Hood' daffodils
Late-flowering narcissus
'Early Red Emperor' tulips
Darwin tulips

For moist (not soggy) soils and where there is moderate shade you can plant Ranunculus (buttercups), Calochortus (Mariposa lily), and Lilium umbellatum (Orange-cup lily). Many of the mid-century, hybrid lilies are hardy and have been used at elevations up to 9,000 feet.

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