Column: Bright ideas for bulb combinations

With just a little extra thought, planning and value adding, the ordinary can become extraordinary, says Brian Minter

Peachy Keen Bulb Combo

Peachy Keen Bulb Combo

Although it’s always nice to see the first bulbs of spring add their charm and brightness to an often wet, cold and sometimes snowy late winter, their first appearance could be so much more eye-catching. With just a little extra thought, planning and value adding, the ordinary can become extraordinary.

Most of us really do a pretty good job in our gardens, but by taking it to another level, we can make our gardens truly inspirational.  The wow factor gives us so much more aesthetic satisfaction and enjoyment.

The art of combining bulbs is truly the magic that makes all the difference. Most of us know how to blend colours, but we are a little uncertain when it comes to the timing of spring bulbs. With so many varieties of narcissus and tulips, it’s very difficult to combine them if we’re not sure they will bloom at the same time.  The latest trend in floriculture is creating stunning combinations. Just wait until next spring, and you’ll be amazed to see what’s coming your way. Major horticultural companies are taking a leadership role here, using brilliant designers to create beautiful combinations that come pre-packaged to make it easy to have that stunning display.

This fall, more than ever before, you’re going to discover how easy it is to purchase pre-packaged bulb combinations that have exact colour blends and timing and just the right number of bulbs to plant throughout our gardens. The International Flower Bulb Institute in Holland, along with growers and bulb exporters, have put together some pretty amazing combinations for planting this fall and for enjoyment in late winter through spring.  Here are some of those beautiful combinations you’ll see in garden stores this fall.

‘Diamonds & Sapphires’ is quite an uplifting collection of dark blue muscari (grape hyacinths) and sparkling white Anemone blanda.  Both bloom a long time and ‘perennialize’ to come up year after year.

For something really different there is ‘Charisma’, an orange blend of split corona white narcissus with ruffled orange centres that creates harmony with coral orange botanical tulips.  Both will repeat bloom nicely next year.

‘Enchanted Pixies’ are just what you’d expect– a fun combination of the tiny headed  ‘Cha-Cha’ and ‘Bittern’ narcissus.  These minis will show up in your garden year after year.

‘Sweet Dreams’ is a wonderful soft pastel mix of ‘Emperor Exotica’ and ‘Purissima’ tulips.  Talk about lifting your spirits, especially on those dark cold early days of spring.

I don’t know why, but these three ‘Prince’ tulips, in combination, just pop:  ‘Summer’, ‘Candy’ and ‘Purple Prince’ combine yellow, lavender and purple in quite a magical display.  Gosh, it’s nice!

‘Mango Tango’ has rich warm yellow and burgundy tones using the tulips ‘Jan Reus’ and ‘Candy Corn’ in a beautiful display of spring charm.

‘Magic Carpet Ride’ uses one of the most underrated bulbs – the entire family of muscari or grape hyacinths.  By blending together Muscari armeniacum, M. album and M. latifolium, a blue and white carpet that lasts for at least three to four weeks is created.  A planting of tiny bi-colour blue and purple violas would bloom before, during and after this display and truly enhance this already delightful combination.

‘Peachy Keen”, a real show stopper, features a very different colour combination, blending ‘Cool Flame’ narcissus and ‘Apricot’ tulips.  A unique pansy combination called ‘Citrus Mix’ with white, orange and soft yellow would value add this combination brilliantly.

With so many bulb varieties available today, the possibilities for combinations are limitless, but pre-designed packages make it so much easier.  These combinations do best in garden beds.  Containers would need to be well insulated, especially after last winter’s severe cold. More and more folks are planting in special bulb trays that look very much like water lily containers. You simply plant them up in good soil and bury the containers in the ground. You can either lift them up and pop them into containers once the bulbs come up in spring or even better, lift them when they finish blooming to keep your garden looking tidy and let the spent bulbs die down naturally in an out-of-the-way area, for planting next fall.

Do try some of these delightful combinations for a fabulous display next spring. They are widely available right across the country and with a little effort now, it will be a valuable addition to your garden next spring.

Chilliwack Progress