As we begin planning our bulb displays in late winter, spring, and early summer, remember: It’s not just about the bulbs, it’s also about the impact they can have in our gardens.
It’s a huge waste of “bulb talent” simply being thrown around. Its short flowering period is good, but its dying time is not. Combining them with their complementary companions is a great way to enhance their beauty and create some stunning artistic displays.
As an added benefit, companion plants will cover up any unsightly foliage as the bulbs’ above-ground time comes to an end, thus keeping the planting areas looking fresh.
As for the bulbs themselves, they will be secure, tucked between companion plants, and protected from damage by garden tools as we weed and change our seasonal displays, which is a big bonus.
Most bulbs will also benefit from the root systems of other plants that shed excess moisture during periods of heavy rainfall. Many companion plants, such as Euphorbia, protect the bulbs from rodents.
The benefits of companion planting are many, so let’s create some great bulb synergy.
Heucheras, heucherellas and tiarellas are evergreen perennials that provide year-round color.
They now come in a wide range of colors, and many varieties produce attractive flowers in spring. When interplanted with small bulbs, such as crocuses, muscaris, grape hyacinths and late sylellas, these compound plantings create beautiful displays, especially when these perennials start their season with colorful new foliage.
From its rich dark burgundy, black and tan leaves to my personal favorite, spicy lemon, you can match and contrast colors with the white, pink, yellow or blue bulb flowers to achieve the effect you want. Miniature daffodils, such as Golden Bells narissus and Tete-a-Tete, also work well.
Not only will all of these bulbs repeat their bloom next year, but they will create a more significant display as the bulbs multiply.
Hostas and ferns also make great companion plants, and although hostas die back in winter, many ferns, such as Polystichum setiferum, are evergreen and are natural companions to small bulbs.
In sunny areas, the many species of Euphorbia make great companion plants. Euphorbia Characias and E. Shorty is a particularly great option.
These evergreen varieties perform amazingly year after year and provide wonderful accents to all your bulbs. When its vibrant flowers bloom in late winter, another layer of beauty is revealed.
If combined with compact white daffodils, such as thalia, or with early red, white or yellow tulips, they will be wonderful.
Dark foliage varieties, such as Euphorbia amygdaloides, would make great partners for soft yellow daffodils and tulips.
Even herbaceous varieties, such as E. polychroma and E. griffithii, which die back in winter, will create a stunning display with golden February daffodils, especially as the new red growth begins to open up.
Evergreen ornamental grasses also provide a great opportunity to pair bulbs.
I love blue fescue, especially the very intense blue of F. Beyond Blue, along with white snowdrops, blue and purple crocus and blue muscari. Together they create a beautiful effect. The evergreen, compact, upright Acorus gramineus Ogon, with its gold and green stripes, is a delight planted with blue or purple-striped crocuses, deep blue muscaris and late-flowering blue scylla. For a real pop, try short red botanical tulips, such as Tulipa praestans Unicum. Low-growing black mondo (Ophiopogon Nigrescens) planted with small, early white bulbs, such as Snowdrops, White-striped Pushkinia, White Plushkinia or White Skyla, is pure magic.
Winter flowering heathers are a natural partner for early colour. Low-growing Erica carnea varieties, such as Golden Starlet and Kramer’s Red, create a stunning scene when paired with white, yellow or blue crocuses and white or yellow miniature daffodils.
There are opportunities to create some stunning lamp combinations, using perennials, shrubs and ground covers, throughout our gardens. Don’t miss out on some truly special deals in late winter and spring.