If you’re lucky enough to live in a fairly mild climate where you can plant year-round (perpetual) flowering plants or a succession of perennials, you may be wondering why you should even consider growing bulbs. That’s particularly true if you have a smallish space to work with. Shouldn’t you just go for plants that give color for all or at least most of the year? Here’s the dirt on perpetual flowerers vs. bulbs.
Although there are some plants that flower freely almost all year round, your choice is rather limited, and most of the very profusely flowering plants are members of the daisy family. Although daisies have their place and are pretty, they’re hardly the most exciting plants around. When last did you hear someone say ‘Wow! Your daisies are spectacular’?
You can’t just leave perennials to their own devices either. There will come a time when you’ve got masses of old, dead flowers and woody or leggy growth to deal with. When you cut back your plants, you’re left with something that will revive, but that will look ugly for a fair amount of time: Not exactly the best way to make use of limited garden space!
Of course, perennials, shrubs and ground covers make their own contribution to your garden. They’re there to create a setting for the real works of art to be displayed against! They form the framework of your garden, but they’re seldom the most exciting element.
Although bulbs take a little while to get around to flowering, the blooms they produce when they flower are unmatched. Bulbs are the ‘showgirls’ of the plant world. They take a while to prepare for their moment of glory, butwith a bit of clever planning, you can ensure that you have a succession of blooms that lasts from early spring until late summer – even in a limited space.
From dainty narcissus to long-stemmed, graceful tulips with large, showy blooms, you’ll find bulbs that are suitable for just about every corner of your garden. There are even tough bulbs that will naturalize in your garden. Plant them among your ground covers and watch them spring up in ever-denser clumps every year.
It’s not only the sight of the blooms that’s spectacular. Some of the most delightfully scented plants you’ll find grow from bulbs. Only think of the sweet scent of Hyacinths or, if you prefer more subtle scents, the delicate scent of Grape Hyacinths (Muscari). Many of the Narcissus varieties are scented too – try Narcissus Thalia for bringing the scent of spring into your garden.
Let’s not forget the benefit of cut flowers that last well in the vase and that can brighten up your home without you having to spend a fortune at the florists. Wherever you find them, in the vase or in the garden, the blooms of bulbs have more than a touch of class.
Perennials are pretty, but the most spectacular ones only bloom once a year (think camellias) and spend the rest of the year taking up space. Roses, we’ll grant you, are lovely all summer, but take a lot of work to keep them that way. In general, perennials are a canvas that you can turn into a masterpiece with the addition of bulbs. Bulbs and perennials were made to go together, but most people forget the most striking element: the bulbs.