Gardeners have long had a love affair with bulbs (as well as corms, rhizomes, and tubers). They all produce colorful flowers, and act as perennials by storing food over the winter. Spring bloomers are planted in the autumn, while summer bloomers are planted in the spring.IMG_1544

Bulbs are either hardy or tender; tender types must be dug up and stored over the winter, while hardy ones survive the winter in the ground, although they must have a cold snap to flourish through dormancy. They can also be grown in pots. The techniques of safely digging up bulbs, and then preparing and storing them are the subject of another blog. Suffice it to say that they must be removed from the ground without damaging them.

The other interesting note about bulbs is that when the flowers fade after blooming, the green foliage that remains begins to lie down and look scraggly. This foliage cannot be removed until the foliage turns completely brown and is easily pulled off, as the plant needs this green foliage to replenish nutrients for the following year’s cycle. So the price gardeners pay for the showy flowers is the unsightly foliage after the bloom. Details Landscape Art, a Sonoma County landscape contractor, occasionally is asked by a client to install bulbs in the new garden. To solve the unsightly foliage issue we recommend designing clusters of one type behind small boulders, so that the foliage can be tied with a rubber band or string and tucked behind the rock until ready to be removed.

Our lists of bulbs are short and conservative. We generally stick to reliable varieties that are readily available, do well in our Northern California climate, and are easy to grow.

Spring bloomers (planted in fall):

  • Freesia – Very fragrant, the Dutch hybrids come in red, pink, orange, yellow, blue, lavender, purple and white. Plant corms 2′ deep and 2′ apart in well drained soil.In dry Northern California, corms can remain in the ground all year long.
  • Hyacinth – spikes of bell shaped fragrant flowers in purple, blue, red, salmon, pink, yellow, buff cream and white. Treated as annuals in our climate.
  • Iris (- there are from two hundred to three hundred varieties growing from bulbs or rhizomes in varying colors, forms and bloom seasons.
  • Narcissus (daffodil) – produce trumpet shaped flowers in yellow and white in winter or early spring. Clumps grow larger over the years.
  • Tulip – most tulips need a winter cold snap for best performance

Summer bloomers (planted in winter-spring):

  • Tuberous begonia – large flowered hybrids that grow from tubers. Strains are either upright or hanging. Uprights generally have larger flowers, hanging types bloom more profusely.
  • Gladiolus – great cut flowers, they have tubular or ruffled flowers. They bloom from spring to fall in a very wide range of colors.. Plant in mid winter in Sonoma County. For an extended bloom period, stagger planting at one week intervals for about six weeks. Space corms about six inches apart.
  • Dahlia – perennials from tuberous roots in many flower forms in a wide variety of flower sizes and colors