Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
September, 2005
Regional Report

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Begonias make an attractive covering for bulb beds.

Pairing Bulbs with Perennials and Annuals

Bulbs to plant for spring bloom can be purchased now for first-choice quality. These include alliums, amaryllis, anemones, brodiaeas, crocuses, daffodils, freesias (so fragrant!), fritillarias, galanthus, baby glads, glory-of-the-snows, grape and Dutch and wood hyacinths, Dutch irises, ixias, leucojums, lycoris, montbretias, narcissus, paperwhites, peonies, ranunculus, scilla, snowdrops, sparaxis, tigridia, tritonia, triteleia, tulips, dog%tooth violets, watsonias, and winter aconites.

Choose big, plump bulbs, as these have the most stored food and will produce the largest and most numerous blooms over the longest period of time. They cost a bit more, but they'll provide a great deal more pleasure when they bloom.

Especially fragrant freesia cultivars include Athene, Allure, Demeter, Excelsior, Golden Wave, Mirabel, Pink Westlind, Snowdon, and Welkin.

If you like having blooms in the lawn, these are good for naturalizing, and the ripening foliage following bloom won't interfere with mowing the lawn: chionodoxa, eranthis, muscari, ornithogalum, and puschkinia.

Don't forget to buy some bulbs just for indoor forcing from Thanksgiving through January. Good choices include amaryllis, crocus, freesias, lily-of-the-valley, paperwhites, and tulips.

For a long-lasting spring display, plant some early, mid-season, and late-blooming bulbs every other week from October through mid-December, and again beginning in late January.

Depth of planting also affects when the bulbs will bloom: Shallow plantings will bloom sooner, and deeper plantings will bloom later. If you want everything to bloom for one spectacular display, plant the bulbs at the same time and at the same depth. If you prefer color over several months' time, plant bulbs every several weeks, and vary the planting depths each time you plant.

Also plan for the visual topping on this bulk "cake" -- the groundcover or blooming plants you'll enjoy before, during, and after the bulbs do their thing.

Dark green groundcovers set off the bulbs' brilliance, including pachysandra, lamium, English ivy, periwinkle, even prostrate juniper.

Perennials include daylilies, irises, asters.

I like using annuals the best of all, for their range of colors and exuberance in continuous bloom all winter and spring through early summer when the bulbs' drying foliage "melts" into the still-perky annuals' foliage. Good choices include alyssum, candytuft, lobelia, primroses, snapdragons, wax begonias, impatiens, and pansies and violas. Scattered wildflowers are a good choice, as well, for their soft green carpet effect below the blooming bulbs, and they hide the dying bulb foliage as they grow taller and bloom themselves.

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