Garden News Blog

Behind the Scenes: Planting Bulbs

BBG staff and volunteers dug 7,500 holes in the Garden this fall. Why? To plant spring bulbs, of course. Into each hole went either a tulip, hyacinth, iris, or allium bulb, all of which will contribute to the gorgeous spring display in the Annual Border along Lily Pool Terrace and in the beds along the west side of Magnolia Plaza. It took a team of five about two days to complete the planting, but that was just one step in the process. All told, bulb planting at BBG spans almost an entire year from conception to completion. “I start mulling ideas in midsummer and then start sketching it out and putting the plans on paper a little while later,” says curator Cayleb Long, who has masterminded the borders for the past three seasons. This year’s design will showcase pink, purple, and white species and cultivars, as well as succession planting, the practice of planning a garden with an assortment of bloom times in mind to create a continuous, ever-evolving display.

First up will be the hyacinths and species tulips, which will bloom in mid- to late April. The different tulip cultivars will follow a little later, and the alliums and irises will start to take over as the early bloomers fade. An assortment of cool-weather annuals, which will be propagated in the Garden’s nurseries this winter, will provide an ongoing accent for the duration. The two borders will also exemplify two contrasting styles in garden design. Along Lily Pool Terrace visitors will see the traditional, formal approach involving blooms lined up in rows and symmetrical patterns, arranged by height and color; the Magnolia Plaza beds will feature a naturalistic style. “For this, we literally threw the mix of bulbs we selected into a tub and mixed them around before we planted them, so you’ll see lots of different heights and more of a frenzy of color,” says Long.

Sarah Schmidt edits BBG's Garden News Blog and the Guides for a Greener Planet handbook series.

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