Spring is officially here, and that means it’s time to plant. One of the prettiest scenes is a vibrant array of bulbs, gracing the edges of your lawn.
Bulbs are a great choice, because they offer so much choice. You can plant the “usual suspects” such as tulips and daffodils, or you can go with varieties you can be pretty sure your neighbors aren’t featuring in their yard. There are bulbs that offer arresting colors and shapes, from tiny purple or white grape hyacinths to tall, brightly-colored foxtail lilies. Many bulbs are irresistibly fragrant, too.
The San Jose area is in USDA plant hardiness zone 9b – one of the best for growing a tremendous range of trees, shrubs, and flowers. Bulbs are happiest when they can have a chilly rest over the winter, then “spring” forth when the weather starts to warm. That said, there are plenty of bulb varieties that bloom in the summer and fall. So if you choose wisely, you can enjoy beautiful bulbs along your lawn edges nearly all year long. Of course, you’ll want to plant other types of flowers, too.
Because they need a winter chill, the best time to plant bulbs is in the fall. But that’s OK. While you’re waiting to do that you can achieve instant gratification (and a serious landscaping upgrade) by purchasing pots of flowering bulbs at your local garden center or even the grocery store. You can find hyacinths, daffodils, and tulips, as well as plenty of more unusual choices. When you get them home, simply transplant them into your yard.
Looking for inspiration?
Just a few weeks ago, the Mercury News published an article about Rich Santoro, also known as The Bulb Guy. He has planted more than 11,000 bulbs of all description, at his home in San Jose and at his property in Milpitis. He actually opens his home to the public in late March, so you can see it all up close. You can email him at email@example.com to get on his notification list. Ask about directions to his hillside in Milpitis, too, because for this year he planted a secret message that will be revealed in bloom.
Need some direction as well as inspiration?
Check out Sunset magazine’s recommendations on the five best bulbs to plant in the fall:
- Dutch iris
- Species tulips (the traditional kind)
- Darwin hybrid tulips (the tallest kind, with the biggest flowers)
- Parrot tulips (the fanciest-flowered kind)
- Apricot daffodils (or any of their innumerable relatives, from tiny sun-yellow jonquils to famously-fragrant paper-white narcissus)
For the ultimate in inspiration and direction you’ll want to visit The Better Homes and Gardens Plant Encyclopedia. It’s a searchable list of dozens of bulbs -- literally from allium to winter aconite -- that gives you the low-down on how and where to plant each variety and other details to help you plan a simply stunning display. (And, by the way, you can plant bulbs in pots as well as in the ground. Think of your pots as portable gardens.)
Whichever bulbs you choose, they are sure to create a colorful show, perfectly offset by your lush, green lawn.
Oh, wait. Your lawn is not lush and green?
How embarrassing. No amount of flowers will make up for that. But you can give your bulbs the background they deserve, by replacing that unsightly expanse with faux grass. By next fall, you’ll already be using that gorgeous, carefree artificial turf, and you can picture exactly where you want to plant more bulbs along the edge.