Planning a Mix of Perennials and Bulbs

Roots, Bulbs, Corms, Rhizomes or Tubers: just think of flower bulbs, just as other plants that you choose to add to your garden.  What is the purpose or purposes of your garden?  A certain color, to attract certain birds, sun loving or shade loving, deer resistant, naturalistic, formal, etc.  Consider flower bulbs just as you would consider any other flower or plant.  They are not any harder to take care of and can be a great addition to your gardens.

Planning is always the best way.  (Use the internet to gather answers to your questions)  Here are the next steps & questions to get you planning and making your decisions:

  1. What is my purpose/direction for this area?
  2. What plants are appropriate for the amount of sun exposure?
  3. Which ones do I like?  (me: probably all of them)
  4. What plants would be hardy/survive the year? (to make it easier on you for future years)
  5. Order your list by bloom season and make sure you have some in each.
  6. Now sort your list within bloom season by the typical height of the plant.

How many plants can you fit in your space? You can use this spacing chart to help you estimate how many plants can fit in your garden.  Divide square footage of garden by spacing factor to get amount of plants needed. Example: the plant says it should be spaced 12 inches apart and you have 25 sqft.  spacing factor is 1, you would need 25 plants.  You can do this for each plant or just estimate plant spacing average (like 10inches)

Space in InchesSpacing factor25sq ft50 sqft75sq ft100sqft

For each plant you choose, you will typically want 3, 5, 7 or 9 of each of them.  Now you may need to add or subtract the amount of varieties you will include in your space.

Now it’s the fun part.  You get to design your own picture.  You get to choreograph the movie or living photo.  Use the characteristics of your plants so that the change of seasons creates a dance of color!  After you experience bloom times and it didn’t turn out how you thought it would~   move some plants around.  It’s your palette and you can change, add or take away anytime you want.

It says flower bulb crazy~ but i am really all FLOWER CRAZY!  More is better, more variety, more selection of color, more, more, more!!  If I don’t have it, I want it!

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A Treasured Classic – Peony

They are a classic, because they have been around in so many peoples’ landscapes for years, often outliving their owner.  They are an easy to grow, shrub-like perennial.  Practically no maintenance and no gardening experience necessary!  Peonies can survive decades with no pruning, spraying, protecting or dividing.  If you love flowers, you must have a Peony in  your yard!

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They are treasured because of their large blooms (minimum 3″ across), super fragrance, excellent cut flowers, and longevity.   If you have average soil, half sun, and average drainage, you will probably still have an excellent peony that will impress. They bloom in late spring to early summer, and their ‘shrub-like’ foliage looks good into late fall.

I have listed some minor details that may prove to be helpful when growing your peony:

  • When planting, be sure the highest point in crown (new growth area) is only 2 inches below soil
  • Mulch is good, but keep off crown
  • Prefers neutral to slightly acidic soil
  • Prefers cool temps, does well in zones 3-8 (if well protected can survive in zones 2 & 9 too)
  • Prefers 6 hours of sunlight; less sun = less flowers
  • If sandy soil, it is good to add perennial fertilizer in spring
  • Never cut more than 50% of blooms at any given time
  • Foliage should be cut back in fall, 1-2 inches above soil (to prevent leaves from harboring any fungal disease)
  • Considered heavy feeders so it is best to wait to move or divide in fall

Peony Garden in Gosen City, Niigata, JapanIn the first 5 years of growth peonies get bushier and produce more flowers each year.  After 3-5 years you can easily divide your peony.  You can dig up the root ball and rinse roots, so you can see each of the tubular roots.  Get a long flat shovel and cut out a ‘slice of pie’; being sure that your slice has 1-3 crown buds in it.  Now, replant and water and wait for more ‘flower shrub’ peonies to emerge next spring.

Peonies are great for borders, including in a perennial garden, and great at covering over yellowing spring bulb foliage.  I am sure you will grow to love Peonies as much as I have!



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Colorful Caladium Foliage

Looking to add more color to those shaded areas of your yard?  Caladiums are an excellent choice and very easy to grow and care for.  Vibrant reds to pale pinks, wide bands of color to speckled patterns of green, the foliage of caladiums will make quite the splash in your shade garden!   The heart-shaped leaves of  caladiums generally grow 12-20″ tall and work well for borders, accents or simply intermixed with other shade-loving plants, such as  hosta, astilbe, and begonias.  They will provide great color all season long!


Since they are slow to get growing, starting these tubers indoors is a great way to get fuller, more vigorous plants come summertime.  Here are some helpful steps to get started early:

  • Plant them in a well-drained planting container with a bit of potting soil, at a depth of approximately 2-3 inches deep. Attempt to determine which end is up by feeling for points (buds) on one end. Once those points are found, place this side upwards under the soil.
  • Water sparingly.  Caladiums require a consistent temperature of 60° F or above in order to sprout and begin growing. Keep in a sunny location, somewhat shielded from hot, direct sunlight.
  • Move containers outdoors or replant in an outdoor garden bed after all threats of frost has past.

USdogSome sources even lovingly refer to caladiums as Angel Wings!  Check out some nice varieties at    You can get them as early as late February, giving you a nice jump-start on your garden.  Keep in mind: caladiums are only hardy in planting zones 9-11, but can easily be stored indoors over the winter if you are in colder zones. Protect them from frost at all costs and you’ll have beautiful foliage for your shade garden for years to come!



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Cafe au Lait Dahlia – Wedding Trend

Spring is just around the corner, and with that kicks off the 2014 wedding season! Right now brides everywhere are planning every detail of their special day, down to the decor, food, attire and of course FLOWERS!

Flowers can be used all throughout a wedding, especially bouquets and decor for the ceremony and reception. We took a look at what is trending in the wedding industry and we hand-picked our favorite flower for 2014 weddings, the Cafe au Lait Dahlia.

The Cafe au Lait Dahlia is a huge explosion of wedded bliss – everything about the color, shape and size of the flower is perfect for wedding bouquets and decor. Check out these images that inspired our decision…

IMG_3797-700x466(Image Source: Floret)

IMG_3837-700x466(Image Source: Floret)

Wedding017(Image Source: Oh Darling / A Night in Bloom)

Copy-of-Picture-008(Image Source: SpringWell Gardens)

 DSC_9858-1024x681(Image Source: CalieRose Floral & Event Design)

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Spring Blooming Bulbs are up!

Here are a few photos from my yard the first week of May!  Daffodils, Hyacinths, Scilla, Muscari and many Tulips are now open!  Fritillaria, late Tulips, Iris, and Allium are yet to bloom.  Many Peonies, Astilbes, Geraniums, Bleeding Hearts, Ferns and many others have all begun to grow!  Springtime is exciting, because there continues to be new blooms to see each week!    136s 137s 138s 139s 140s 141s 143s 145s 146s134s

Yes- my mass planting of tulips in front of daffodils did not make it this year.  (They looked awesome last year)  To much water sitting there this spring, and not enough drainage.    I did get a lot of green leaves laying on the ground.  🙁



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Sweet Scents in your Garden

Walking through the garden can be beautiful, peaceful and relaxing.  There are many aspects to look at when planning your garden: color, architecture, bloom time, hardiness, etc.  Planning for when and where you put fragrant plants would be another.   The varying fragrances of plants, flowers and shrubs can range from sweet to pungent.  It really depends on the individual as far as which ones fit into which category.

Adding fragrance to your garden can be as simple as purchasing the flower you like and finding a spot for it in your garden.  At my first home, I bought a dwarf lilac and planted it right outside my front window.  I loved the smell and looked forward to spring even more in anticipation of it wafting into the house. You could put a little more thought into it and experience even more enjoyment.


Be sure to find fragrant plants for each season and incorporate them in different areas of your gardens.  By planning this way, you will be able to find sweet fragrance in your yard Spring, Summer and Fall throughout all your garden areas. Be sure to plant them in all the key areas of your garden, such as your front entry, along the edge of your patio, in containers, or along your walkway.

There are so many choices of fragrant blooms that vary in height, bloom time, and hardiness.  You can add a variety of fragrant shrubs, perennials, and annuals for the most interest.  The following is a list of many to help you get started.

Spring blooming: Lilac,  Daphne, Rhododendron, Peony, and Korean Spice Viburnum for shrubs.  Fragrant Begonia,Hyacinth, Fragrant Daffodils, Sweet Pea, Chamomile, and Bearded Iris for flowers.

Summer blooming: Summersweet, Butterfly bush, Mock Orange, Honeysuckle for shrubs.  Tuberose, Phlox, Russian Sage, Festalis Ismene, Petunia, Oriental Lilies, Bee Balm, Geranium, Lavender, Freesia, and Heliotrope for flowers.

Fall blooming (or late summer): Wintersweet, Sweet Box, Abelia for shrubs.  Foxtail lily, Sweet Autumn Clematis, Sage and Anise for flowers.




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Not Much of an Indoor Gardener

Winter sure can get long by the time March rolls around.  The cold usually keeps me mostly indoors for more than three months.  I emotionally and mentally get through this time by focusing on the beautiful snowfalls and spending my time forcing flower bulbs and growing amaryllis.  The sweet scents of myhyacinths and the huge blooms of the amaryllis both help to fill the void from what I am missing from the outdoors.

I write about caring for your garden, specifics on many flowers, different planting ideas, etc.  I am a flower, garden and outdoors lover.  When it comes to indoor plants and flowers, it is a little different.   I am just one of those that does not care for them well.   I still love various foliage and flowers, but do not seem to give the same care and love to them indoors.  (Hence why the flowers I use in winter — hyacinth and amaryllis — are the easiest plants!)  They virtually need NO care.   I know I cannot be the only one like this.

Currently, I have two indoor plants surviving over one year:  an Aloe plant and an Oleander.   They seem to be quite tolerant of neglect.  Foliage and flowers make the indoors look better by design, much like they do outdoors.  I just wish I could stop losing plants.

I have seen and read about these cute and adorable Terrariums.  I think I may be able to keep succulents alive?? (The Aloe doesn’t always look good though it is still alive.)  I love the idea and decided to add a few to my decor this winter.  When I found these terrariums that have artificial foliage, it was perfect for someone like me.  You cannot tell that they are not real succulents either!  They are called Forever Faux Terrariums.





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Keeping Warm this Spring

It is only early March, yet I am already writing in anticipation of Spring.  We just received another 3 inches of beautiful snow yesterday.  Most of our snow was late this year, but I know Spring is almost here.  When it arrives, I am thrilled to walk around the yard and look at all of the new buds just beginning to appear.  There is also much anticipation to take the time to sit and relax outdoors.

The cool weather is great for working in the yard, but it is difficult having to return to the indoors so early on these still cold evenings.  In Wisconsin and many other northern states, we have just spent at least 3-4 months trapped indoors.  That is what makes a fire pit or chimenea almost necessary for at least half of the United States.  It is wonderful to stay outdoors, enjoying the fresh air and sounds in the air. Outdoor heating elements make this possible earlier in the year!

mexican fireplace chimenea garden chiminea

When you are done working in the yard or return home from work, it can be very relaxing to sit outdoors by the heat of some type of fire.  It is not just the heat and fresh air that is relaxing, but also gazing at the flickering and dancing flames which can help to create a tranquil environment.  It is why those in Florida or in any other southern state can still have so much enjoyment from some type of fire pit or chimenea even though they may not need the warmth quite so much.

Get outdoors soon, and stay out as long as you can!  Take time to rest and relax, soaking up all the outdoors has to offer you — right in your own back yard!  Small fires are easy and safe to enjoy.

If I have convinced you to get yourself your own fire pit or chimenea, I encourage you to check out the cool affordable options that have to offer you.



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Simple & Fun Family Project

Most people enjoy flowers.  Some more than others, of course.  This is a project that any age group can do, and you get flowers to enjoy, too!  Forcing fall planting bulbs can be a great way to get some indoor blooms.  Forcing can be a long process, due to the fact that the bulbs need so many weeks of cold before they will produce any flowers.  BUT if you buy bulbs that have been pre-chilled, it becomes more simple & easy!

You can do this project on your own or include the rest of the family.  Do it just for fun, as a classroom project or even as a homeschooling project!  Choose from Hyacinths, Tulips, Daffodils, or use them all!

1.  Purchase some ‘prepared bulbs’ or ‘pre chilled’ bulbs. ( is currently carrying some varieties)

2.  Unpack your planting containers and some potting soil.  Or to make it even more simple,  you can even buy planting kits (container, soil & bulb) from

3.  Plan on planting as many bulbs that you can fit in the container.  You decide.  Cover bulbs with soil and water lightly.  No fertilizer or any other additives needed.

4.  Once your bulbs have been fully chilled (each type of bulb has a certain amount of chilling weeks needed), simply set out under normal lights for about a week.  Then place in a bright window or under brighter lights for 2-4 weeks.

5. Once blooms begin to open, move to normal lighting area for a longer bloom time.  Now Enjoy!


Experiment ideas:

  • Leave some under normal light until bloom
  • Compare the difference in blooms when bulbs are planted closer together
  • Track growth rate
  • Plant some bulbs with just water and compare the results

Just in case, I have included a timing chart for most bulbs:

Name of bulb                         Weeks of cold                    Weeks to bloom

AmaryllisNone6 to 8
Chionodoxa152 to 3
Crocus152 to 3
Hyacinths11 to 142 to 3
Iris152 to 3
Muscari13 to 152 to 3
Narcissus15 to 172 to 3
Paper-whitesNone3 to 5
Scilla12 to 152 to 3
Tulip15 to 202 to 3




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Cheating with Fall Flower bulbs!

As most of you probably already know, most fall planted bulbs require 10-17 weeks of  chilling (temperatures consistently below 55 degrees F) in order to grow and bloom correctly in the spring.  In the USDA Hardiness Zones 3-8, they will receive this period of time naturally when planted outdoors in the fall.  But what if you live in zone 9-10? Or what if you were too slow and forgot to buy some bulbs prior to the ground freezing? Perhaps you have wanted to try to force fall planted bulbs, but don’t have the space or ambition provide those many weeks of chilling for them…

Well, have I got the answer for you!  Why not consider purchasing some “pre-chilled” bulbs so that you don’t have to do the work? Willard & May has recently started to offer kits containing Tulips, Daffodils, Hyacinths, Muscari and Crocus bulbs which have now been chilled for at least 10 weeks.  These kits are sure to bring some cheer to anyone’s home and office, making wonderful gifts!  Planting and then watching these bulbs grow can even be a simple but fun and educational project to do with young children.  The planting container, soil disk and bulb are all included.

  So go check them out today!

Willard & May; Outdoor Living & Gifts

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