Late last year our horticulturists and Shop Friends of the Garden were busily researching beautiful bulbs to showcase and sell at the Garden. With spring’s arrival, it’s a great opportunity to share some tips and techniques from our horticulturists. Christopher and Scott are both Horticulturists working in the Front Entrance garden area. Christopher takes the lead on planning, planting, and maintaining the area surrounding the entrance to the Garden, and Scott works in supporting this work and the work of Curators within the Garden. They each took some time to answer a few questions about the technique they’ve used.
What is Lasagne Bulb Planting?
Basically, like a lasagna, you layer bulbs within a pot or container. Include bulbs that will bloom sequentially prolonging the showiness of the pot. Small bulbs like crocus, puschkinia, and dwarf daffodils are planted at the top, while the larger tulip bulbs are planted deeper. After the first layer of early spring bulb flowers start to fade, the foliage of the next bulbs appears. Ideally the next layer of flowers will bloom producing constant colour.
Why did you choose the style of planting the bulbs for the front entrance planters?
Large pots work well for planting a lot of bulbs. Many gardens have a large display section that use 10-30 pots. Each pot holding a separate type of flower. The small pots are great for moving things around and replacing pots as plants fade. However, in order to do this successfully, you need to have a large storage space. The smaller pots dry out faster requiring much more frequent watering. Our large containers hold a lot of soil and moisture, and our lasagna planting does not require a lot of fuss with moving pots around (we don’t have a lot of time!).
What surprises have you discovered along the way? (hint…were all the bulbs the ones you thought? Did spring arrive later than you thought?)
Despite our best intentions, there are always surprises. The emergent tulip foliage of the Tulipa ‘Exotic Emperor’ worked quite well with our originally planned first layer of crocus, daffodils, and puschkinia. We also intended for the sailboat daffodils (Narcissus ‘Sailboat’) to be pure white, however, they were more of a cream colour identical to the Tulipa ‘Exotic Emperor’. The weather has been quite cool so we still have tulips that haven’t even started blooming in the containers (though this actually was quite a nice surprise!).
Strangely, we included the largest number of Tulipa ‘Apricot Fox’ in all of the containers, but so far they have only come up in one of the containers. We suspect that this may be due to the container being the largest, and its placement behind the 4 other containers. Perhaps it is catching all of the southern light heating it up? We are curious to see when the rest of the Apricot Fox tulips come out, as this really altered the intended timing of the display of the apricot-cream colour combination we desired.
What time saving techniques can you recommend after choosing this method?
As you plant the lasagna, fill the container with soil to the level of the deepest layer of bulbs, lay those bulbs all out (pointy side up), then fill with a bit of soil up to the next layer and repeat until you get to the top.
If you are trying this at home and have squirrels, try laying thorny rose twigs across the top or use netting (remember to remove in spring) to deter any munching of bulbs. This way you won’t have to fill missing holes in spring!
Every fall the Botanical Garden hosts our Treasured Bulb Sale, where unique and highly sought after bulbs are carefully cleaned and prepared by the Friends of the Garden, look out for this wonderful event happening mid-September. If you are interested in pre-ordering some bulbs this fall, let our friendly Shop in the Garden FOGs know, they’ll happily help you order in gorgeous plants for your own garden.