A Year in Bulbs

Tom Weaver —  April 10, 2014 — 1 Comment

Bulbs are often thought of as a single season “wow,” beautiful in spring and gone by summer. This couldn’t be farther from the truth!

With a little planning, you can have beautiful displays of bulbs throughout the season. You can blend colors seamlessly for a year-long display, or you can mix things up seasonally to give yourself three or four new displays, one for each season! The ephemeral nature of most bulbs allows you to keep things fresh without constantly replanting.

This summer, we’ll be following the Graham Bulb Garden throughout the year to show how a palate of background perennial plants can be transformed into a stunning display of different colors and textures throughout the season.

PHOTO: View of the Bulb Garden.

Iris reticulata ‘J.S. Dijt’ provides some of the earliest color in the Bulb Garden.

 

PHOTO: View of the Bulb Garden.

A bed of Scilla rosenii, Ornithogalum umbellatum, and Chionodoxa luciliae ‘Alba’ getting ready to burst forth with color.

 

PHOTO: View of the Bulb Garden.

It may not look like much now, but soon this hillside will be a sea of Narcissus, Muscari, Lilium, Allium, and dozens of other bulbs blooming continuously for the entire season.

So what’s blooming now in the Bulb Garden? 

Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) provides an important source of nectar and pollen for early pollinators. On any warm day, you can see hundreds of honeybees scurrying among the flowers.

Giant snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii) is often one of the first things we see blooming in the Bulb Garden. This year, the first flowers were seen on March 20, well-timed for the start of spring! Snowdrops are best planted near doors or paths where you can appreciate their delicate nature.

Dwarf reticulated irises (Iris reticulata) come in a wide variety of colors, but the one thing they all have in common is their rich color and striking presence in the garden.

Early scilla, or white squill (Scilla mischtschenkoana ‘Tubergeniana’), might not be the most readily available bulb, but its icy blue color and ease of growth make it a great choice for early spring color.

PHOTO: Giant snowdrops in bloom.

Giant snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii)

PHOTO: Winter aconite in bloom.

New-blooming winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) is already being pollinated by honeybees.

PHOTO: Scilla mischtschenkoana 'Tubergeniana' in bloom.

Delicate Scilla mischtschenkoana ‘Tubergeniana’ in bloom.

PHOTO: Iris reticulata 'J.S. Dijt' in bloom.

Miniature Iris reticulata ‘J.S. Dijt’ is an early spring bloomer.

©2014 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Tom Weaver

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Tom Weaver is an assistant horticulturist who takes care of the Graham Bulb Garden, Aquatic Garden, and viburnum walk. He has a bachelor's degree in environmental horticulture from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus.

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  1. A Year in Bulbs: Part Three | My Chicago Botanic Garden - May 18, 2014

    […] just over a month, we’ve gone from having only a handful of small blooms to a lush display of thousands of blooms in every shape and size. Thanks to several warm days, the […]

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