Plant a bed of bulbs now for vibrant spring color

  • By Martha Stewart
  • Thursday, September 1, 2011 12:01am
  • Life

Dutch garden designer Jacqueline van der Kloet helped me with planting an assortment of blue-flowering, successively blooming bulbs from Dutch growers.

The International Flower Bulb Centre’s technical director, Frans Roozen, brought varieties of bulbs that would provide the desired blue effec

t for the longest span of time.

I cannot wait for next spring, which promises an even more vibrant blooming because each of the species chosen is known for its “multiplier” effect: they all multiply prodigiously, and seemingly effortlessly, year after year.

Bulb basics

These steps will ensure a spectacular flower display and offer years of beauty and enjoyment.

Buying: Order your bulbs from a reputable supplier, and check with the seller that what you are ordering will provide the desired effect (for example, a good bloom sequence).

Readying the bed: Prepare the bed to be planted before the bulbs arrive. Dig into soil with a trowel, and pull the trowel toward you to create a hole slightly deeper than your desired planting depth. Plant small bulbs 3 inches deep in warmer areas or 5 inches deep in colder ones; larger bulbs 6 inches or 8 inches deep. Incorporate composted material and bulb food for added nutrients.

Planting: Plant on a cool day when the earth is slightly damp but still friable. Bulbs need soil that drains well. Don’t try to plant in mud or ultradry earth. Enlist the help of a friend so that the entire area can be planted on the same day to ensure a unified look and proper density of planting.

Watering: Once planted, top the bed with a thin layer of rich compost, and water the area well.

Companion plants: If adding ground covers or perennials such as hellebores, do so while planting the bulbs to avoid disturbing the bed later.

Waves of blue

When massed together, these six species of miniature spring bulbs make a grand statement over a period of six to eight weeks.

Grecian windflower: Scores of daisylike flowers pop up in early to midspring. Soak the dry tubers overnight in water before planting them.

Glory-of-the-snow: White starlike centers accent each pristine pale-blue flower.

Grape hyacinth: This vigorous variety is the palest blue of its family.

Siberian squill: Tiny multistemmed flowers of electric blue sit atop thick, glossy leaves.

Woodland crocus: Lilac-blue trumpets open best in full sun, so keep that in mind when planting these eager naturalizers.

Grape hyacinth: Eccentric and sturdy two-tone blue-black flowers stay upright for a longer period than their cousins.

Our new line of bulbs at Home Depot, available this fall, includes a similar mix of spring-blooming blue flowers.

Address questions to Ask Martha, care of Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 601 W. 26th St., Ninth floor, New York, NY 10001. Send email to

© 2011 Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc.

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