How To Plant Your Bulbs For A Soft & Natural Look

How To Plant Your Bulbs For A Soft & Natural Look

Watching your beautiful bulbs bloom in early spring can help lift your mood after the long and dreary winter. While many gardeners tend to plant their bulbs in an organized and uniform manner, such as in straight or geometrical grids or even in containers, these designs can sometimes appear artificial and lack the natural flow of nature. Fortunately, there is a better way to display your spectacular bulbs to give them a more natural and untamed look, as if you were taking a walk in the woods. All you need to do is randomly scatter your favorite tubers all over your lawn and plant them wherever they land. Although it may seem a bit chaotic at first, you can always rearrange the bulbs according to your aesthetic preference if needed.

If done correctly, a naturalistic bulb meadow can emulate nature’s self-flourishing habit, growing, spreading, and blooming over successive years with minimal effort. This will save you time, money, and energy while providing a beautiful and vibrant display. Additionally, planting several bulb varieties can attract pollinators such as bumblebees and honeybees to your garden. To get the most out of your bulbs, plant them in an area with ample sunlight, preferably as deciduous understory growth or as border clusters to soften the edges.

Designing a bulb garden

Daffodils in bloom

But before planting fall bulbs, ensure you’ve got a sound plan, as imitating nature’s work is trickier than it looks. First, choose the varieties you want to cultivate. For a natural-looking garden, prefer the types that flower over successive years yet aren’t weedy, are low maintenance, self-seeding, and adaptive. Snowdrops, daffodils, tulips, winter aconites, hyacinths, and alliums represent a microcosm of choices. As these varieties repeat the bloom-die-bloom cycle every year, coming back stronger when treated right, they naturally begin to realign their patterns akin to nature’s undulating, graceful lines.

Next, pick a color. While you can stick to a consistent bulb variety and color to naturalize your flowers, creating drifts of different hues is also an option, especially in large expanses. However, ensure the shades complement and succeed each other, or else they’ll look unnatural. Moreover, if you wish to intermix different varieties, select them carefully to layer them, preferably with the bigger bulbs like daffodils or lilies at the back of the planting area, flanked by smaller ones like squill and crocus toward the front.

Planting bulbs for a natural look

Person planting bulbs in cluster

Jodijacobson/Getty Images

The golden rule to achieve a soft and natural-looking bulb meadow is to bid goodbye to systematic grids and patterns. Instead, create multiple clusters around your yard to give it a relaxed look. There are two ways to go about this. One, stick to a single bulb type and mass plant it—maybe even include several sub-varieties in clumps of 50 in smaller lawns. Gently throw the bulbs on the soil to mimic nature’s arbitrary growth and plant them at their landing position. To maintain the soft look, avoid spacing them out uniformly, but leave them room for growth.

The other option is to club together different bulbs and grow them in irregularly sized drifts for added variety and a splash of color. For instance, mix 12 tulips with 50 crocuses in a clump to play on their size. However, you’ll need to make separate passes for the tubers, owing to the difference in their required sowing depths. You can alternatively intermix varieties by staggering their blooming times for an extended flowering season while maintaining a casual, rhythmic look.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.