It's well known that a living green environment has beneficial effects on both health and mood, and parks are a perfect way to meet this need. Local authorities that wish to respond to societal demand for colour and variation may well find the solution in the form of flower bulbs. Bulbs add colour to the street scene from early spring right through to autumn.

One great advantage of flower bulbs is their great adaptability - you decide which  planting scheme suits you best. There is a choice between annual, perennial or naturalising bulbs, and between early flowering varieties and those that flower late.

Colour effect
As annuals: annual planting is generally preferred in cases where bulbs should produce a mass colour effect, for example in flowerbeds with successive flowering of crocuses and tulips, seas of grape hyacinths or extended ribbons of large-crowned narcissi. Flowering bulbs with strong colours (red, yellow, blue) are particularly suitable for this purpose.

Perennial bulbs
Perennial planting means that the planted spring bulbs remain in the ground and are allowed time to die back and ready themselves underground for the following growing season. Spring bulbs used in this way therefore follow the same cycle as other perennial plants. Spring bulbs cultivated in this manner often form part of an existing perennial planting scheme, perhaps in a herbaceous, shrub or rose border.

Reappearing every year
Bulbs suitable for naturalisation offer just a little bit more than those classified as perennials. Naturalising bulbs also remain in the ground and come into flower every year, but they have the added advantage that, if the air and light conditions are good, they will spread and increase.

In grass

Grass provides an ideal neutral background for experimentation with bulbs. The variations are endless:

  • Strips of a single variety in a range of colours, closely planted as a cheerful ribbon for springtime.
  • Strips of one or more varieties in the same colour, planted at a sufficient space to display the individual flowers to their best advantage: like a coloured wash had been laid over the lawn.
  • Fanciful shapes cut into the lawn, filled with a mix of different types to flower successively, for weeks of ever-changing colour.
  • Bands or lozenges. Bands of varying length in a single colour with intervening spaces will result in a contemporary and graphic appearance. Lozenge shapes with a contrasting interior colour are always effective in a more classical setting.
  • Circles of varying diameter, appearing like "dots" against a green background. The constantly changing colours and forms will ensure that the border never loses its appeal to the viewer. And of course it is also possible to plant naturalising bulbs in the grass, using a criss-cross pattern for a cheerfully informal effect.
  •  A border of herbaceous perennials or low-growing shrubs makes an outstanding combination with flowering bulbs.  Just as the bulbs reach the end of their flowering season the perennials begin to colour up, providing a touch of beauty in the public space from early spring onwards.  
  • For a true riot of colour try combining existing border planting with perennial bulbs. The trick here is to strike the right balance between the two plantings.
  • An informal atmosphere can be created using naturalising bulbs in combination with perennial plants and shrubs. The advantage here is that the bulbs will reappear every year. A border of this type requires little or no maintenance.

Flowerbeds in public green spaces are particularly suited to seasonal planting: flowering bulbs in spring, followed by annual summer flowers and then perhaps by winter violas. Locations like this call for plenty of strong colour.

A judicious selection of bulbs and other plants will guarantee you six weeks of colour. The constantly changing flowerbed will be a joy to watch. Nature at its very best!

As well as perennial plants, trees and shrubs, annuals can be ideal partners for summer-flowering bulbs. They all need to be planted at the same time, allowing you to produce the ideal layout. Suitable varieties include Begonia, Canna and Dahlia, but also Ornithogalum, Tigridia and Mirabilis.

Plants which rapidly gain height in the spring and put on a good amount of leaf make the most suitable companion plants for bulbs like narcissi, as they draw the eye away from the foliage of the bulbs as it dies back. The following are worth considering: Alchemilla, Brunnera, Chelone, Darmera, Geranium, Hemerocallis, Hosta, Ligularia and Lysimachia punctata, ciliate or clethroides.

Among trees and shrubs

Flowering bulbs planted among trees and shrubs must be strong enough to be left to fend for themselves thereafter, as they may have to deal with strong competition from other plants.  One further observation is that it is primarily the earliest flowering varieties that are of interest in this setting: they will be seen to their best among the still leafless woody plants. The ideal mix would include at least six types of naturalising and successively flowering bulbs. Plant a mixture like this in groups of varying size in the lightest areas in a grove of trees or at the edge of a wood to guarantee years of floral abundance.

There's a reason why we spend our winters looking forward to spring!

  1. While flowering bulbs can thrive in a wide range of soil types, they still prefer one location over another. The soil type and the associated characteristics are therefore important factors to be taken into account when drawing up a planting scheme. You will find more information in the section on PRACTICAL INFORMATION/SOIL TYPES
  2. Get planting! You will find more information in the section on PRACTICAL INFORMATION/PLANTS.
  3. As an example you will need 40-50 large-flowered crocuses per square metre for public green spaces and 15-20 for the combination border planting scheme. You will find more information in the section on PRACTICAL INFORMATION/PLANTS.