A quick note: This post is done in partnership with Longfield Gardens, where I’ve been getting my fall-planted bulbs from for probably a decade (well before they knew I existed). Thanks to Longfield for the support. All words and thoughts are, as usual, my own.
Bear with me for a moment here, because I have startling news: It’s time to think about next spring. But to think about next spring you have to think about fall. And if you’re anything like me the very last thing you are interested in thinking about right now is anything other than the summer we’re currently enjoying.
But it’s time to order fall-planted bulbs.
Whether this is a task you look forward to or one you simply endure, I promise you you’re going to thank me come next spring when you have a yard full of gorgeous blooms.
I planted a LOT of bulbs last year, perhaps about 1,500, but I’ve blocked out the actual number because I’ll admit it was a grind to get them all planted. Funny, though, all that had been forgotten come April. The vast majority of those went in a large new garden area so this year I’ll worry more about just adding a few here and there to that space.
What was striking to me was how planting in that quantity and in clumps, versus individually, instantly made the garden look more mature. It’s a technique I think I’ll rely on from now on. It was also easier to plant them because I just dug a hole with the shovel and popped 15 or so bulbs in at once.
I also chose a limited palette of bulbs, grouping ‘Jetfire’ and ‘Silver Smiles’ daffodils with muscari which created a great sense of repetition throughout the garden. Normally I wouldn’t have been able to show so much restraint in the face of all those amazing daffodils out in the world, but after amassing quite a collection of them throughout the years, I feel like I have a good variety represented in the garden to make some gorgeous bouquets and just enjoy walking around looking at them.
I also rediscovered a love of tulips this year by planting them in a new way. Because of intense deer pressure in my garden, tulips are off limits most places, but not inside the vegetable garden fence. This spring I grew them in the skinny in-ground beds that run the length of the garden, instead of the raised beds as I had done in previous years. This left the beds open for me to plant seeds early in the beds and the tulips were finished by the time the strawberries and raspberries that grow in the ground needed the space.
The key to tulips, in my opinion, is quantity. I planted 700 in those skinny beds and could have used even more. I planted the ‘Brilliant Mix’ and added in a few deep purple tulips as well, and the color was so welcome at that time of the year.
The other different thing I did with bulbs last year was to select bulbs that mostly bloom at the same time, which isn’t something I’d typically recommend. It makes sense to select bulbs that blooms at a variety of times so the great spring display is stretched out. But I’ve learned that in my garden, where spring takes a long time to show up, it can be helpful to have bulbs in different areas of the garden bloom all at once to make clean up easier and to provide a big show.
I make an exception to that with alliums, which I’m happy to have blooming as long as possible. I have so many favorites: ‘Purple Sensation’ for its reseeding habit that creates colonies of alliums in the garden over time, ‘Mount Everest’ for it’s architectural white globes, ‘Nigrum’ with its dome-shaped white flowers and, this year, I rediscovered my love for ‘Christophii’, which looks as much like a sparkler as any flower could.
Although daffodils, tulips and alliums make up the vast majority of my fall-planted bulbs, it’s fun to play around a bit with more unusual bulbs, such as the Fritillaria above. I can’t think of another bulb that will demand attention like that one one. It does want great drainage, so I was pleasantly surprised when it bloomed a second year (I plant these bulbs, which have a dimple, on their side, so that they don’t sit with water in them). I also planted lots of Anemone blanda last year, a cute little woodland plant that should make its way around the spring garden.
So here’s what I ordered for this fall:
Other fun stuff:
So what’s on your fall-bulb planting list?
OK, now that you’ve placed your bulb order (seriously, just do it so you’re not sad in fall), I return to you to your regular summer gardening program.
I’ve been putting off my bulb ordering but thanks for the encouragement. I’ll be ordering in the next few days. It’s so hot and humid here I don’t even want to think about digging holes for bulbs. It won’t be long until fall will be here though.
I placed my order knowing if I don’t get it in early, many bulbs sell out! I might have to add the Christophii, yours are beautiful. Do you recall if you planted those bulbs singly or in groups? You got a wonderful show, however you did it.
I love planning my fall purchases and last year also planted hundreds of tulips and daffodils and the spring display was worth those cold afternoons in November. Now I just wish I had marked a few areas better. I’m likely to disturb a few as a increase the volume! I placed an order as soon as I could! I know once you and Laura remind people some favorites will sell out quickly!
I actually like thinking about fall – the cooler temps, less humidity and a calming down of the garden. I am also going to concentrate on early bulbs as the straggling foliage of the late ones is not gone by the time I want to be able to see the perennials.. More alliums and minor bulbs for the lawn
I actually have my order into Longfield. I have had the best luck with their Spring bulbs. The daffodils, tulips and allium bulbs have been so healthy and huge. I have tried other suppliers – but Longfield bulbs have been the best productive for me. I lost count on the number and type of bulbs I ordered – but am so looking forward to there arrival in the fall……
I have also ordered from Longfield Garden. All of our plants have done well. The company also sells plants and bulbs at Costco. That is where I first learned about the company.
The little blue flower surrounding the Fritillaria?
Hi, Ann! The blue flowers in that pic appear to be Virginia Bluebells. They make the most impact when planted in large groups. Happy Spring planning!
The anemone blanda are the cute little blue flowers. If you click on the links, you’ll get some great info and pics??
Bluebells surround the Fritillaria.
I agree about planting bulbs that all bloom at the same time. Spring takes a long time to come here too (Toronto, Ontario) so I only plant early blooming bulbs. I don’t want to have to deal with late blooming spring flowers when I plant my annuals.
Hi Joanne. ? I’m in Dunnville, ON and like you, waiting for the greenery to die back drives me crazy! Which bulbs do you plant? Thanks
Funny! I just got a bulb catalogue from Breck’s today. Hopefully I’ll have all my new perennials purchased sitting outside planted before then! ? You are a great motivator! ?
Dang. I told myself I wasn’t going to order any new bulbs this year. My resolve is quickly fading…
I’ve already ordered 2 types of daffodils and the tall snowdrop called Snowflake. I’ll be getting more alliums from my local garden center, Specialty Growers, who is sadly retiring this season. The Ambassador allium is great! Very dense and the stem is super thick and sturdy-it still hasn’t dried up completely! Happy bulb hunting!
What do you folks do:
– buy and plant new bulbs every season?
– leave your bulbs in the ground year-round?
– add to your existing plantings every year?
Like Joanne mentioned above, waiting for the greenery to die back makes my garden feel messy for so long. Thanks
Do you buy new bulbs each season?
Answer: No, I used to do that until I ended up with a mish-mosh of colors. Now I only buy bulbs that naturalize and multiple on their own, such as daffodils, tulips, bluebells, allium, and crocus. After years of frustration, I settled on a spring color scheme from the Toronto Botanical Garden – it was orange, peach, pale yellow, with pops of purple added in. The real formula was supposed to be a mix of Orange Emperor Tulips, Akebono Tulips, and Purple Dream Tulips but I had to tweak it according to what was available. I used Orange Emperor Tulips, Purple Daydream Tulips, Replete Daffodils, Pink Charm Daffodils, and Peach Cobbler Daffodils…and oh my goodness it turned out beautifully. I also planted Allium Globemaster, Sensation, and Gladiator along the driveway which picks up the purple tones. And in my rock garden I planted Spanish Bluebells which for some reason are purple and not blue, so they also match the color scheme too. And I have patches of purple crocus planted here and there in the lawn.
Do you leave your bulb in the ground year-round?
How do you hide dying bulb greenery?
Answer: I’d love to hear what others use too – I basically use daylilies but they aren’t too effective. I’ve heard Lady’s Mantle works well.
After seeing many YouTube people say they treat Tulips as annuals, I bit the bullet and have ordered more Tulips for areas they didn’t come back strong this year. I started ordering in May this year because many Co. were having sales or free shipping or both. Have 225 Tulips and 330 Daffodils ordered. Yikes I will be busy trying to figure out where to plant AGAIN! The Daffodils, Hyacinths and Allium have been good at returning each year (Zone 7). I have Snapdragons that seed themselves and cover the dead leaves of the bulbs.
Really great article and beautiful photos, as usual. I so enjoy your posts and videos!! I noticed you have done a lot more videos this year.
Thank you for all your efforts to put these out there for us to learn from and enjoy. I garden in MT Zone 4 and try to make the most of our short growing season as well.
Erin, What is the fern next to “Christophii”?
I love the light green ferns next to Christophii also. Beautiful and informative article and comments, thank you!
My order is placed! I ordered from Longfield Gardens for the first time last year, just before I found your videos on YouTube. My daffodils and alliums were fabulous this past spring, and the caladiums I planted as tubers this summer are gorgeous!! I am going to see how I do with digging up and storing all the caladiums before I decide about dahlia ordering, which is on my calendar for December. Thank for all the info. I enjoy your posts and videos, and I’ve had great luck with Longfield Gardens!!
This is such a nice article on spring planting ideas. Thank you for sharing it.
Your photography is wonderful. You should write a gardening book!