Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
October, 2011
Regional Report

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Combining herbaceous perennials with flowering bulbs -- for example, rudbeckia with Oriental lilies -- brings additional color, form and fragrance to a mixed border.

Bulbs Amid Perennials - Beautiful Together

Your bulb order has arrived. The weather is crisp and sunny. Bulb planter in hand, you wonder "Where should I plant the tulips, the daffodils, the crocuses, alliums, and lilies?"

Dutch bulb master Jacqueline van der Kloet warms to combining hardy spring- and summer-flowering bulbs with herbaceous perennials. "That's my favorite subject. You should always have as much color as possible in your garden for as long as possible."

Tucking bulbs among perennials is smart and aesthetically pleasing. As perennials grow, their leaves can hide declining bulb foliage that's best left attached to feed the bulbs.

Jacqueline recommends interplanting early flowering spring bulbs with perennials that leaf out early then flower later in the season, such as lady's mantle, hardy geraniums, and hostas, for example. These combos are double winners, providing two periods of bloom and color in the same spot. She also combines summer-flowering bulbs that bloom later in the season with early flowering perennials such as coral bells and tiarella.

Some of her favorite combinations are red and pink tulips with 'Wargrave Pink' geranium and Centranthus ruber; 'Purple Sensation' allium with dark red tulips, 'Munstead' lavender, and 'Claret' astrantia; and 'Angelique' tulips with 'Six Hills Giant' nepeta.

Jacqueline strives for a natural look in a mixed bed of perennials and shrubs. How? By choosing three or four different varieties of bulbs to plant in groups of ten or more per variety. Before planting, mix all the various bulbs in a basket or bucket. For example, you might mix scillas, early crocuses, and puschkinia for early flowering with daffodils and hyacinths for later spring flowering. For natural drifts, grab a generous handful of bulbs and toss them as if you were throwing a Frisbee. "Then plant every bulb where it lands because the whole concept is based on absolute randomness," she suggests.

Spring Through Autumn Combos
To stagger flowering from late winter into summer, combine small-flowering bulbs, daffodils, alliums, and lilies. Siberian squills, snowdrops, and most crocuses are early bloomers. Narcissus such as 'Jack Snipe' and 'Tete a Tete' have medium or small flowers with slender foliage. As they fade, show-stopping trumpet daffodils like 'King Alfred' and 'Mount Hood' take center stage with striking flowers and big leaves.

Giant alliums, whose odor repels many four-legged pests, are outstanding in the June perennial border. Asiatic lilies such as 'Cancun', 'Lemon Stardust', 'Fata Morgana', and 'Grand Cru' flower in early June. The large, fragrant Oriental lilies like 'Stargazer', 'Muscadet', 'Mona Lisa', and 'Garden Party' bloom a bit later. For an all-to-brief autumn show, fall crocuses and colchicums emerge, bringing surprise and color to partly shaded spots, meadows, and grassy swathes.

Ready to Order?
If you haven't yet ordered bulbs, consider doing it through Bloomin' Bucks, which donates 25 percent of all sales to the charity, public garden, or 501(c)(3) organization of your choice.

This online fundraising program by Brent & Becky's Bulbs is quick and easy . Have your 501(c)(3) register online at When you purchase, use Select your organization from the pull-down menu, which sends you to the Brent and Becky's Bulbs website to order. BloominBucks takes care of everything -- taking, tracking, filling, and shipping the orders directly to the customer. Happy planting!

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