Shrubberies

Shrubberies in public spaces make ideal locations for typically seasonal plantings with features like flower bulbs. The early flowering types set the scene from spring onwards, followed by summer flowerers and a selection of late varieties for autumn colour. What shrubberies need above all is strong colour.

Planting the bulbs in layers is a way to make optimal use of their different flowering periods. This approach is sometimes called lasagne planting. The upper layer is filled with the earliest flowering bulbs, such as crocuses. Immediately below these comes a layer of rather later varieties. This results in the second layer pushing gently through while the first layer are still in flower. As the earliest types finish a completely new group will be coming into flower. A judicious selection of bulbs and other plants will guarantee you at least six weeks of colour.  The constantly changing border will be a feast for the eyes.  Nature at its very best!

Summer flowers and summer-flowering bulbs
As well as perennial plants, trees and shrubs, annuals can be ideal companions to 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 as well as Ornithogalum, Tigridia and Mirabilis.  These ready summer-flowering species can give the shrubbery a different twist, so that there is always something new to enjoy.

INSPIRATIONAL EXAMPLES

Boeremapark: bulbs in the shrubbery
On Saturday 29 October 2011 a large group of volunteers from the Mayor's Boeremapark Institute planted some 3.600 flowering bulbs in Haren's Boerema Park. As the group enjoyed a bowl of  fortifying home-made soup they could look back with satisfaction on a successful initiative.

Hilversum 2012
Although delayed somewhat by the harsh winter conditions, spring was definitely on the way in Hilversum's Local Authority shrubberies. Masses of flowering bulbs raised their colourful heads above the grass. During November 2011 the Local Authority's Green Spaces department had expanded the area planted with bulbs by 1000 m2. Inspector/Manager Wim de Graaf says: "These new areas of shrubbery were created following the implementation of the Integral Accessibility Plan and other renovation schemes.

The sites included the roundabout on the Johannes Geradtsweg, the crossing over the Snelliuslaan and the green strips around the recently renovated Noorderweg.  In the past we used to plant the bulbs as quickly as possible by hand, with the result that the lawns showed dark spots of bare earth. Nowadays we do this mechanically, after allowing the new grass to grow and gain in resilience for at least a year. To minimise damage, the bulb planting machines cut a neat slice through the lawns. The newly planted bulbs form part of a mixture designed to allow residents to enjoy the flowering bulbs for as long as possible.

Flower bulbs in lawns, fields and grass verges

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 simplest planting scheme possible, particularly suitable for the rougher grass verges and embankments:  one-off plantings of early-flowering spring varieties like Crocus tommasinianus or snowdrops, which are then left to fend for themselves: years of early spring colour are guaranteed.
  • A mixture of different types of bulbs suitable for planting as perennials and with overlapping flowering periods, to give a multi-coloured bouquet in a rough grass verge. The bulbs may be machine-planted. As the season progresses the grass and the herbaceous plants present will also become part of the planting scheme, for a pleasant and informal feel.
Among trees and shrubs

Flower 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.

Rotation planning

Flower 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.