by Jeanne

Yesterday, I planted 250 spring flowering bulbs in five small holes in the garden. I used a technique called layering, which allows you to plant more bulbs in less space while still providing the bulbs with all they need to be healthy and bloom profusely next spring.

Layering spring bulbs involves choosing bulbs based on blooming time. Not all spring bulbs bloom precisely on May 1st; there are early, mid and late spring blooming bulbs, and even summer blooming bulbs.

You can choose flower bulbs from the same family, such as all tulips with various blooming times, or different bulbs.

I chose to plant galathnus (snow drops), tulips and Dutch iris in the same space. Last year, I had great success with tulips and Dutch iris. The Darwin hybrid tulips bloom in late April here in my zone 7, southern Virginia garden; the Dutch iris blooming in mid to late May.  By planting them in the same hole, I had almost continual color from flower bulbs right up until June, when the annuals took over the task of providing color.

To layer spring bulbs, dig the hole as deep as you need it for the bulbs requiring the most depth. In this case, my tulip bulbs needed about eight inches of depth, so we dug the planting hold to that amount.  Plant the bulbs pointy-side up, like a chocolate kiss, spacing them out according to the package directions. Group them in odd numbers and avoid planting them in a row; even numbers and rows of bulbs end up looking artificial, while odd numbers and clusters look more natural.

Next, place a layer of soil over the tulips bulbs to raise the planting depth to the next level. My Dutch iris bulbs needed about six inches of depth, so the tulip bulbs got a layer of soil over the top that raised the depth to the appropriate amount. I then planted the Dutch iris bulbs, covering them with a layer of soil and adding the tiny galanthus bulbs over the top.  Another layer of soil, some mulch and voila – I have three layers of bulbs, and expect a continual show of color from March through late May.

To keep critters from digging up your flower bulbs, there are a few options. Sprays from the garden center add an unpleasant taste to flower bulbs that make them unpalatable to mice, voles and squirrels. Be sure to wear gloves and follow the package directions for application carefully. An all-natural option is bone meal added to the planting hole; it nourishes the bulbs while also said to repel rodents.

Don’t fret if your bulbs make an early appearance. A warm spell, such as the one we had this week, fooled some of my daffodil bulbs into peeking out from the soil. Cold weather is expected to return later this week, including a hard frost, so the stems will likely get nipped, but the bulbs should still produce flowers next spring.

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