Plants - Flower Bulbs

Plant minor bulbs in early fall

Planted in early fall, these ephemeral bulbs put on a dazzling show before vanishing for another year

Many minor bulbs, such as snowdrops, are well suited for naturalizing in large sweeping drifts in lawns or at the edge of a woodland. Minor bulbs are also excellent in small gardens where exquisite treasures such as fritillaries can be tucked into niches among alpines, for example, which then mask the bulbs’ dying foliage. And they are great to use in raised beds or grouped in front of perennial borders; small clumps can be placed as accents along walks and paths as well, where visitors can pause and admire their beauty up close. Planted under deciduous shrubs such as forsythia and spirea, minor bulbs add splashes of early colour until the shrubs begin to flower.

Mountain rock cress (Arabis alpina ssp. caucasica)

Height: 15 to 30 cm
Spread: 15 to 45 cm
Description: Low, spreading groundcover with masses of pure white blooms from April to May; tolerant of dry soil, which is the environment most bulbs prefer during summer dormancy
Design advantage: Minor bulbs can grow through and bloom above its foliage
Zone: 4

Alpine lady’s mantle (Alchemilla alpina)

Height: 15 to 20 cm
Spread: 20 to 30 cm
Description: Mounds of silvery, light green, scallop-edged foliage are topped with small clusters of chartreuse flowers in early summer
Design advantage: Great at the front of a border, alternating with clumps of minor bulbs
Zone: 3

'Ballerina' cranesbill (Geranium cinereum ‘Ballerina’)

Height: 10 to 15 cm
Spread: 25 cm
Description: Beautiful lilac-pink flowers with dark veins and eyes bloom from early summer until August; mounding form with grey-green foliage
Design advantage: Excellent backdrop for early-blooming minor bulbs
Zone: 5

‘Birch Hybrid’ dwarf bellflower (Campanula ‘Birch Hybrid’)

Height: 10 to 15 cm
Spread: 20 to 30 cm
Description: Masses of trailing, purple, bell-shaped flowers form a low carpet; a long-lived perennial that doesn’t need dividing, leaving bulbs undisturbed
Design advantage: Purple, bell-shaped blooms mirror the flower shape of many minor bulbs
Zone: 4

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