Lighting Your Garden with Perennial Bulbs
by Maureen Cook
What are perennial bulbs?
Bulb is a general term used by gardeners for plants which are highly condensed; their embryonic roots, stem, leaves and flower are all contained within them. Their resting period will end and growth begin when optimum moisture and temperature conditions exist. These conditions vary as different bulbs have different flowering and resting periods, but as perennials they will die down and produce new growth year on year.
Perennial bulbs are easily grown, and can provide wonderful color in the garden all year round. The vast range of perennial bulbs available means you can have dramatic, vibrant color or, if you prefer, more muted, restful shades. The garden has been described as a series of outdoor rooms. So, switch on the spotlight for bold splashes of tulips and daffodils in the spring; switch on the dimmer and, in the fall and winter, enjoy the tapestry of pastel shades created by a carpet of blue crocuses or pink cyclamens.
Before planting perennial bulbs it would be useful to consult the color wheel. Imagine a clock face divided into six, ten-minute sections. Starting at twelve o'clock, and turning clockwise, we move through.the color spectrum: green, blue, violet, red, orange and yellow. Colors from opposite segments of the circle will produce the most dramatic effects: violet tulips and golden daffodils, for example. Colors from adjacent segments produce a more muted effect: purple crocuses and the beautiful blue starry bells of scillas.
The hot colors are found mainly in perennial bulbs which flower in late spring and summer. Tulips, crocosmias and the stately cannas all offer dramatic color at this time. Crocosmias and cannas all offer dramatic color at this time. Crocosmias and cannas will have their vibrancy muted to an extent by their bold, architectual leaves. In a mixed border, you can turn on the spotlight by planting a large perennial bulb such as a canna: its foliage will create the drama as much as its color.
By contrast, using cool perennial bulbs of pale blue, blue pink and even pale primrose, can make a very restful display, particularly in an arrangement of patio containers or in sinuous drifts winding through a border. A truly breathtaking sight is a random planting of cool perennial bulbs in your garden, under a deciduous tree, for example, which copies, on a small scale, a woodland setting. Muscari, colchicums and bluebells will lend a quiet charm to your miniature woodland garden. The dimmer switch has been turned down low.
Of course, coolness is often associated with white. But the component colors of the color wheel, including the “hot” ones, together make white light. It is in this combination of “white-hot” that some of the most exquisite effects can be achieved with perennial bulbs. Scattered through spring and fall borders, when light levels are less intense, the vertical accents of the white snakes' head fritillary, white tulips and the milky-white flowers of the cochicums help create a quiet drama. Both the spotlight and the dimmer are on together. Irresistible – plant perennial bulbs in the garden for stunningly beautiful, year-round color.
©2006 Maureen P Cook
Maureen Cook shows you how the wonderful range of
colors found in perennial bulbs can light up your garden.
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