Gardening With Allen: A look at bulb naturalizing in our climate
By Allen Wilson
Published: September 20, 2018, 6:00am
I love spring-blooming bulbs like daffodils and tulips. I would like to plant more but have run out of room. My beds are all planted with shrubs, ground covers, and perennial and annual flowers. I read about “bulb naturalizing,” where bulbs are planted among trees and shrubs and even in lawns. Is that practical in our climate?
Naturalizing with bulbs is certainly something that can be done in our climate. Naturalizing is done mostly in informal, low maintenance landscape situations where grass is sometimes allowed to grow with infrequent mowing. Bulbs (especially daffodils and crocus) will come up through grass and bloom. Bulb leaves should not be mowed until a month after bloom or they will not have time to make and store food for next year’s bulbs.
I have a neighbor who has a very attractive naturalized bulb bed in a cluster of aspen trees. She has planted both early and late-flowering bulbs throughout the area. Crocus, snowdrops and scilla are the first wave of bloom. They are followed by several kinds of daffodils. Then tulips and grape hyacinths bloom in mid-spring. A few perennial flowers are scattered in this area to continue the color into summer. She does not allow grass to grow in this area.
There are other applications of naturalizing that can be applied to the typical home landscape. Bulbs will also come up quite well through ground covers. I have planted bulbs in ajuga, creeping potentilla, veronica and sedum. There is space between plants to dig holes for bulbs.
Bulbs can be planted in annual flower beds as soon as frost kills them or freezes the flowers. Then as the bulb flowers start to fade next spring, you can plant new annual flowers between the bulbs.
Bulbs can also be planted among perennial flowers, especially those that are slow to develop in the spring. I have hosta plants that grow completely together in the summer. There is plenty of room between plants in early spring for bulbs to bloom before the hostas have grown to full size.
In newer landscape plantings where shrubs are still small, there is room to plant bulbs in between. Later, when shrubs have grown larger, bulbs can be moved to a different location.
New beds for bulbs can be created in front of shrubs by removing a 3-foot or wider strip of grass. Spray any grass that grows back into this area with Roundup after bulb leaves have turned brown.
• Best time to plant bulbs
October and November are the best months to plant bulbs in Oregon and Washington. I have planted up until the end of December with good results..
• Excellent source for top-quality flower bulbs
I purchase my bulbs from Colorblends.com. They consistently supply largest-size top-quality bulbs at wholesale prices. Minimum-size orders vary from 25 to 100 bulbs. Huge selection. Lots of good information on bulb gardening.
For best year-after-year bloom, plant daffodils. They are rodent-and deer-resistant and typically double in number of flowers from year to year. Tulips are much less dependable. For best repeat bloom with tulips, plant Darwin varieties or wild tulips.