Garden Bloggers Design Workshop – Designing with Bulbs

– Posted in: Garden Design
Lilium Black Dragon Aug 2 08

Lilium 'Black Dragon'

It’s finally July, and time for a GBDW topic that I’ve been looking forward to for months: designing with bulbs. Thanks to Craig of Ellis Hollow for suggesting this month’s theme. The only problem is that there are so many ways to enjoy bulbs in the garden, it’s tough to know where to start! I found so many bulb photos in my archives that I decided to mostly let the plants speak for themselves. So, how do I love bulbs? Let me count the ways. There are so many gardening tips out there to help gardeners who are interested in adding bulb gardening to their pastime. Gardening businesses such as Breck could help you find the tips you need to make your garden great during the springtime – see

I love bulbs for being among the first blooms to appear after the winter.

Crocus ancyrensis March 14 09

Crocus ancyrensis

Galanthus March 13 09


Muscari botryoides Album April 12 09

Muscari botryoides 'Album'

I love bulbs for their cheerful spring presence.

ribes odorata muscari blue spike JFGD2


Narcissus Muscari May 5 06

Narcissus and Muscari

Tulipa Antoinette Euphorbia palustris Spiraea May 5 06

Tulipa 'Antoinette'

I love bulbs for their summer shapes and colors.

Allium ampeloprasum Leek late July 05

Allium porrum

Allium azureum June 13 09

Allium caeruleum

Allium karvinskianum Dianthus Aquilegia flab NA Geranium Brookside Artemisia SB late May 07

Allium karataviense 'Ivory Queen'

Allium Mount Everest Sambucus SG Molinia Phlox Caryopteria Jason Heuchera Plum Pudding Sedum Angelina late May 07

Allium 'Mount Everest'

Allium sphaerocephalon late June 05

Allium sphaerocephalon

Allium schubertii June 1 09

Allium schubertii

Canna Tropicanna Cotinus Velvet CLoak Euphorbia Fireglow Eupatorium Physocarpus Diabolo 2 late June 05

Canna Tropicanna ('Phaison')

s Gold Zinnia Profusion Orange Salvia Tagetes June 24 06

Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff'

Crocosmia Lucifer Aug 12 08

Crocosmia Emberglow

Eucomis Oakhurst Aug 12 08

Eucomis 'Oakhurst'

Gladiolus Flevo Party Dahlia BoL Physocarpus Monlo July 29 07

Gladiolus 'Flevo Party'

Gladiolus Friendship July 30 07

Gladiolus 'Friendship'

Gladiolus tristis mid August 05

Gladiolus tristis

Lilium Lillipop June 13 09

Lilium 'Lollipop'

Lilium Tom Pouce Astrantia Hydrangea LH Anthriscus Ravenswing July 19 07

Lilium 'Tom Pouce'

I love bulbs for their fall freshness.

Persicaria Taurus Canna Tropicanna Mum Tropaeolum Sept 9 07

Canna Tropicanna ('Phaison')

Dahlia Dishop of Llandaff Oct 8 08

Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff'

Colchicum autumnale Stachys Big Ears mid Sept 06

Colchicum autumnale

Amorphophallus konjac Oct 14 08

Amorphophallus konjac

I love bulbs for their fantastic foliage.

Tulipa Red Riding Hood May 5 06

Tulipa 'Red Riding Hood'

Oxalis regnellii Oct 4 08

Oxalis regnellii

Canna Tropicanna Persicaria Taurus Sept 15 07

Canna Tropicanna ('Phaison')

Eucomis Oakhurst Imperata Atriplex Berberis Rose Glow Physocarpus Diabolo late June 05

Eucomis 'Oakhurst'

And I love bulbs for their awesome seedheads.

Allium schubertii June 18 09

Allium schubertii

Crocosmia Lucifer Oct 9 08

Crocosmia 'Lucifer'

Allium Mt Everest seedhead on ice 2 Dec 14 07

Allium 'Mount Everest'

I love bulbs. How about you? It’s your turn to share.

  • Which are your favorite bulbs for each season?
  • What are some of your favorite combinations that feature bulbs?
  • How do you use bulbs in your container plantings?
  • Are you trying any new bulbs this year? How are they working out for you so far?
  • What do you think is the most underused bulb?
  • Do you have trouble figuring out ways to work bulbs into your garden? Feel free to ask for ideas!

Gladiolus Flevo Party Aug 11 08If you’re new to the GGW Garden Bloggers Design Workshop, here’s how it works: Write a post on anything related to designing with bulbs on your own blog and give us the link below, or simply leave a comment if you don’t want to do a separate post. If you’ve written about the topic in the past, those links are equally welcome; it’s not necessary to create a new post to participate.

I’ll gather all of the links into one summary post for easy reference. It’ll go up on July 29th or 30th, so if you could get your links in by the 27th, that would be great.

If you’re interested in checking out previous Garden Bloggers Design Workshops, you can find them here:

Dahlia Bishop of Llandaff Aug 12 08Paths and Walkways
Fences and Walls
Arbors and Pergolas
Color in the Garden
Container Plantings
Front-Yard Gardens
Stone in the Garden
Decks, Porches, and Patios
Garden Whimsy
Trellises and Screens
Water in the Garden
Sheds and Outbuildings
Incorporating Edibles
Kids in the Garden
Labeling and Record-Keeping
Pets in the Garden
Wildlife in the Garden
Water-Wise Gardening
Made for the Shade
Front Yards Revisited

Don’t forget that you’re all welcome to go back and add links to these older posts at any time.

And since we’re entering the peak gardening season for many, this seems like a good time to mention some topics I’m thinking about for future workshops, so you can start taking pictures now: Coping with Slopes, Evening Gardens (plants and lighting), Covering the Ground (lawns and groundcovers), Designing with Shrubs, Vines and Climbers, Pocket Gardens (small-space plantings), Gardening with Grasses, and Winter Gardens. I’m thinking that we might also revisit the topic of paths and walkways this winter, because it’s such a popular topic. I’d also love to do another GBDW on incorporating edibles into the landscape, if there’s enough interest. I’m open to other ideas as well!

Nancy J. Ondra
Nan gardens on 4 acres in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In the firm belief that every garden ought to have a pretentious-sounding (or at least pretentious-looking) name, she refers to her home grounds as "Hayefield." There, she experiments with a wide variety of plants and planting styles, from cottage gardens and color-based borders to managed meadows, naturalistic plantings, and veggies--all under the watchful eyes of her two pet alpacas, Daniel and Duncan.
Nancy J. Ondra

Latest posts by Nancy J. Ondra (see all)

18 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

VP July 3, 2009, 4:46 am

Yes! Count me in 🙂

Great, Veep – you’re in!

Sylvia (England) July 3, 2009, 6:05 am

A great topic, Nan, I look forward to the different posts. I love your pictures, not just the bulbs but the fantastic flower and foliage combinations they show.

Best wishes Sylvia (England)
PS I have pre-ordered your new book.

Thank Craig for the idea – oh so many possibilities for fun posts. And thank *you* for ordering the book; I hope you like it!

Meems @Hoe & Shovel July 3, 2009, 11:10 am

Oh, Nan, it is always such a treat to get a virtual tour of any spot in your absolutely stunning garden. Your eye for color combinations and design is more than inspiring. Just beautiful and so well sited. All those alliums… oh my.

This topic should get a ton of enthusiasm. My garden is coming alive with the hundreds of caladium bulbs that wake up for summer interest … this is the time when flowers bolt down here so quickly. I’ll come back with a link at some point. It will be so fun to see all the post results on bulbs.
Meems @ Hoe and Shovel

Yay, it’ll be great to have you join us this month, Meems. I can’t wait to see your caladiums; they have to be among the most spectacular foliage colors and patterns around.

Lisa at Greenbow July 3, 2009, 4:19 pm

What beauties you have here Nan. I was just gifted with some Crocosmia Lucifer the other day. I can’t wait until it takes here and looks so good.

You’re so lucky, Lisa! I hope you have good luck with ‘Lucifer’. I’ve gotten very fond of it, and ‘Emberglow’ too.

Chookie July 4, 2009, 2:15 am

I’m afraid we’re ‘between’ bulbs here; the autumn ones are finished and the spring ones haven’t started. I’ll look forward to seeing everyone else’s posts, though!

Sorry about that Chookie. I’d hoped that mentioning the topic ahead of time would give everyone a chance to participate. I didn’t want to exclude those of you currently in winter!

Mr. McGregor's Daughter July 4, 2009, 2:51 pm

I tried one of the big globe Alliums (‘Purple Sensation) for the first time this year. I learned a valuable lesson – plant where the foliage will be hidden. Your photos are such great primers on bulb placement. Too bad I didn’t consult them before I planted the Alliums last fall.

Thanks. MMD. Yes, the tall alliums often work out best where their foliage is hidden, because it seems to be getting ugly just as the flowers are peaking. Some of the lower ones, like A. karataviense, have leaves that are just as handsome as the flowers, so they deserve to be where you can see them. Here’s a good combo shot from Kim at A Study in Contrasts:

LINDA from EACH LITTLE WORLD July 6, 2009, 4:43 pm

Nan — great topic as I’m really trying to figure out how to use bulbs better. I’ve done a few posts on the topic but you have some good questions to consider. And both your use of bulbs and your photos are wonderful. A lesson in every picture.

As we’ve dealt with sloped front and back yards that’s a topic that will interest me. And we designed our garden to look good in winter since we have such a long one. So looking forward to those future topics.

I hope you find some inspiration in this month’s contributions, Linda. And then maybe you’ll share your success with us!

Heirloom Gardener July 6, 2009, 10:24 pm


Again, what a great topic. Your post was particularly good at showing how bulbs contribute to the garden in all seasons. Here are three recent posts related to the subject:

1. Beyond daffodils and tulips: seven minor bulbs to plant for spring

2. How to plant tulips throughout your garden: along pathways, in mixed borders, under trees, and in raised beds

3. What I’ve learned about growing tulips in New Jersey: protecting from squirrels and deer, planting in clay soil, and creating colorful combinations

-Heirloom Gardener

Thanks for coming through yet again with some great links, HG. I especially appreciate you sharing your trick for protecting tulip bulbs from squirrels.

healingmagichands July 12, 2009, 7:57 pm

This just might come under the heading “Oh don’t get me started” as I am probably a very HUGE bulb enthusiast. I love them because they keep coming back and coming back and multiplying so you have beautiful clumps. If I ever recover from this darned flu I have had this week I will work on a post for this topic.

Your pictures are fabulous and I love the fact that you point out that there are some bulbs that have wonderful foliage as well as blooms. We tend to forget that aspect when we are drooling over the catalogs. At least I do.

Oh, yes, start, start – please! I look forward to seeing your post.

healingmagichands July 24, 2009, 5:15 pm

I finally got the planned post done and published. I chose to discuss the simple spring bulb border I put around my rose garden.

I’m so glad that you’re feeling better. Your post was worth waiting for!

Meems @Hoe & Shovel July 25, 2009, 1:06 am

Oh, looking back through these photos reminds me I need to get some of those canna leaves bringing that wonderful ,colorful foliage excitement to Hoe and Shovel.

I’ve just published a current caladium post for this year’s display of my best-loved bulbs.

I say it again… I’d still love to see what it’s like to live in a climate where so many more bulbs are happy… maybe for a season… just to see…

Thank you, Nan, for the workshop!

Honestly, Meems, with all of those enchanting caladiums, do you really need cannas as well? Oh sure, why not? Go for it!

VP July 26, 2009, 5:32 am

Ooooooh that was lovely 🙂

I fear I’ve enthused at you rather than told you anything about design in my garden!

However, I’ve linked to several posts I’ve made previously about specific bulbs – I could have given you a whole heap more, but then the piece would have been mainly blue underlining which might have made it a tad difficult to read in its own right.

And I’ve also put in a link which neatly explains the difference between bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes. That could have been a post in its own right had I had more time this month 🙂

If my experience is anything to go by, this could be another design topic worthy of revisiting.

Thanks, Veep – that means a lot coming from someone who is a confirmed bulb aficionado. Thanks for sharing some of your tips. I agree that we may need to repeat this topic at another time.

VP July 26, 2009, 5:40 am

BTW on holiday I visited Bressingham Gardens and met Adrian Bloom. Adrian’s father Alan (sadly now deceased) introduced the Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ Lisa’s mentioned.

It’s an important garden here in the UK as 2 particular planting styles were developed there – island beds using unsupported perennials (Alan Bloom) and the now deeply unfashionable Conifer/heather planting combinations (Adrian). From what I saw on my visit, it looks like Adrian’s doing a lot to adapt the latter style by introducing grasses (mainly) and perennials into the mix.

The Blooms have also been responsible for introducing a whole host of new plants much loved by gardeners everywhere it would seem.

Note to self : must dust down my holiday snaps and get round to posting about my visit!

VP July 26, 2009, 8:25 am

Hello it’s me again!

I forgot to mention earlier that I did indeed start my series on unusual front gardens as promised in the last GBDW:


Thanks for this too – I’ll have to go back and add it to the wrap-up.

Craig @ Ellis Hollow July 26, 2009, 5:27 pm

Hey Nan:

I had my calendar marked to make sure I got something in for the design workshop by this weekend:

Looks like a real light turnout this time around. By suggesting the topic, I guess I can share the blame (with vacations, folks wanting to outside more and in front of a screen less etc. etc.)

Oh well.

No blame, Craig; we still got some great links. I appreciate both the suggestion and the post you shared. It would be great to get some more attention for The Bulb Project.

Jeannie July 30, 2009, 5:38 am

I wanted to do this topic up fine…but, guess I’ll just have to slug it out, and sneak in at the last minute, under the wire. This is probably fine, because I don’t have much to say.
My bulb du jour is sparakis. It has always been part of my yard since we first moved here 20 years ago. It multiplies and spreads with little encouragement, nevertheless, oftentimes I will sit in late spring harvesting the little bulbils, knowing I can scatter them with a flick of the wrist and have new areas performing come next February. Yes, February, where daffs and other things bloom in Sunny Sacramento.
That’s all of my bulb story. I like my sparakis!
Thanks for the lovely photo gallery. I will save it for reference!

Debra Lee Baldwin August 7, 2009, 4:54 pm

I had lovely drifts of bright red sparaxis (interplanted with blue babiana, another S African bulb) throughout my garden for years, which was gorgeous in early spring. And then some critter (rat, bird, squirrel, mouse, possum, weasel—I have no idea) discovered the bulbs and ate them all. Didn’t touch the babiana, though.

clea May 22, 2010, 3:31 am

I love the plant combination in this image…

could you please tell me what the plants are?

Many thanks~!

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