Today, I’m going to take you on a journey to explore the huge collection of flowering garden bulb plants available. In particular, we’ll focus on those that bring something unique to the garden. These beauties have been recognized worldwide as some of the most gorgeous you can incorporate for a truly impressive flower garden.
When it comes to visiting gardens, I’m a sucker for beautiful and highly productive flower gardens. In fact, there’s nothing I enjoy more than meandering my way around country gardens that have been specifically planted to show off flowers’ beauty, in all of their shapes, colors, and forms.
My obsession with flowers has brought me much pleasure, especially throughout my years as a gardener and designer. I’m always researching, planning, and planting up the visions in my mind. Like foods, some plants and flowers just “go” together—a marriage that quite simply “works”.
When indulging in my favourite hobby, I’ve discovered that it’s not only the flowers that fill me with glee, but also the natural supports in which they grow through and over top of.
Many that are used to support and give structure to the plants also allow them to grow to their full potential. Most noteworthy are curved, twisted lengths of willow, lovingly shaped to uphold the beauty of some of the largest, and heaviest blooms.
In Praise of Archways and Classic Design
For example, ornate arches crafted by hand from trusty hazel wood often behold the weight of a “Rambling Rector” or a geriatric Clematis Montana. To me, flower gardens take me somewhere in the past, back to a romantic age of walled flower gardens, brick inlaid pathways, and very English afternoon tea parties (croquet included).
These bring to mind a period setting, creating a scene of overflowing, bountiful beauty where every plant has its place in a relaxed, though somewhat naturalistic plan.
As you can tell, I’m a true romantic at heart. Let’s take a look at how to create an impressive flower garden, incorporating bulb plants of interest and focal points throughout the gardening year.
The Importance of Bulb Plants
Bulbs play an important role throughout the year in a garden setting. Some bulbs produce flowers in spring or summer, while others display their glory in autumn, and winter. Best of all, once planted, they’ll last for many years and give interest, both in stature and colour.
Because they are planted underground, they take up very little room and enable you to change the view of your garden throughout the seasons. The key to a successful garden is to have elements of interest throughout all seasons, even in the winter, leaving no area barren.
By choosing bulb plants, you can bring added interest and life into your garden for every season. Furthermore, they’ll all continue to grow and adapt year upon year.
What Exactly is a Bulb?
The term “bulb” is used to describe plants that develop underground storage organs. These include true bulbs such as daffodils and tulips, and corms, such as crocuses and gladioli. Other garden perennials form different-shaped storage organs.
Summer favourites such as the dahlias form underground tubers, while plants in the iris family form rhizomes. A rhizome is a stem that grows laterally, either on the surface of the soil, or just underneath it.
On the surface, bulbs and corms look quite similar, but their makeup is quite different. Bulbs are actually modified stems with fleshy leaves, such as daffodils and tulips. Corms are generally shorter than bulbs and hold their essential food store in their swollen stem. They have a covering of papery scales, which provide protection to the lateral buds.
Below, I have compiled a list of my favourite spring, summer, and autumn bulbs. These can be planted amongst other perennials and flowering shrubs to fill your flower beds with beautiful blooms.
Delightful Spring Flowering Bulb Plants
1. Muscari aucheri (Grape hyacinth)
Muscari are among the best naturalizing spring bulbs. They’re small and easy to grow, with cone-shaped spires of mid-blue flowers that resemble bunches of grapes, hence their common name.
Crocus is a genus of flowering plants in the iris family that comprises of some 90 species. These small and dainty cup-shaped flowers are often the first to be seen in the garden when spring arrives.
3. Erythronium denis-canis (Dog’s tooth-violet)
This is a beautiful naturalizing bulb in the lily family. These shade-loving perennials produce a solitary white, pink or lilac flower at the beginning of spring and are perfect for a shaded spot. Their name derives from the fact that the white bulb resembles a dog’s tooth.
4. Narcissus (Daffodils) – “Aircastle” and “Ice follies “
We all love a good show of daffodils, don’t we? After all, these joyful spring flowers always welcome the arrival of lighter mornings and brighter days.
“Aircastle” is an extremely popular variety, with white petals and a creamy yellow flute.
“Ice follies” has to be another of my favourites. A prolific variety which starts out yellow, it soon turns white after opening. Furthermore, it’s deal for mass planting and lovely in pale flower beds.
5. Ixia (African Corn Lily)
An exotic addition to any flower garden, the African corn lily will thrive in the hottest and sunniest flower beds. Sword-shaped foliage pays homage to a mass of dainty, brightly coloured star-shaped flowers on wiry stems.
6. Tulip – Peony flowered “Angelique”, “Purisima” and “Apricot Beauty”
Tulips adorn many gardens, creating a show for springtime and pulling us out of the dull-drums of winter. My favourites listed below, however, are NOT your average tulips.
“Angelique” is a beautiful peony-flowered late tulip. It’s pink in color with a darker pink blush that deepens with age.
“Purisima” is a fantastically large, creamy white tulip that looks great in the front or middle of a flower bed.
“Apricot Beauty” is a very popular choice, with light apricot-rose flowers that are perfect for cutting. A strong and long-flowering variety on 40-cm stems.
7. Ixiolirion tataricum (Siberian Lily)
Very attractive perennials with a mass of light blue, star-shaped flowers above green, strap-like foliage.
8. Fritillaria (Fritillaries) – “raddeana”, “pallidiflora” and “meleagris”
Fritillaria are in the lily family and come in a wide range of sizes. Flowers are often solitary and nodding, while others form umbels or have racemes of many flowers.
“Raddeana” is often referred to as the “dwarf” crown imperialis, with a crown of gorgeous soft green-yellow flowers on a tall purple-green stem.
My next best, the “pallidiflora” has large pale yellow, drooping bell-shaped flowers held above grey-green foliage.
The “Meleagris” is a much smaller variety at just 30 cm in height, with lance-shaped grey-green foliage and 1-2 nodding, bell-shaped purple flowers which are marked with pink like a checkerboard. A very dainty flower commonly known as the “Snake’s head fritillary”.
9. Hyacinthus (Hyacinth)
I love too many of these varieties to be any more specific. Hyacinths provide stunning springtime displays of clustered, fragrant, bell-shaped flowers on short, fleshy flower stems. They’re available in every colour you can think of, are easy to grow, and are guaranteed to fill your garden with joy.
10. Hyacinthoides (Bluebells)
When I think of bluebells, I think of woodland walks, damp ground, and humus-rich soil. Bluebells are delicately graceful with delightful nodding blue flowers on fresh, bright green stems. A perfect choice when planting en masse, creating the woodland illusion of springtime joy and “blue carpets”.
11. Allium – “Early Emperor” and “Christophii”
I have masses of Alliums planted throughout most of my garden and am near-on obsessed with them! I love the way they give height to a flower bed, their spherical heads bobbing in the wind, whilst looking pretty and attracting a whole wealth of wildlife.
My first “goody” for spring is “Early Emperor”. True to its name, it’s one of the earliest alliums to appear, with a contained habit and a spherical head of deep purple, starry flowers.
Second best is “Christophii”, which only just falls into the “spring” category, but will continue to flower into the summer. This Allium is a vast ball of rose-violet, tiny, star-shaped flowers that can grow to around 20 cm wide. The spent seed heads continue to provide interest in the late summer months.
12. Ornithogalum – “narbonese” (Southern Star of Bethlehem)
This Ornithogalum reaches a height of around 50 cm, with a tall flower raceme of star-shaped, milky white flowers, each with yellow stamens. These looks good when planted in a group, and flowering extends from May through to early July.
Stunning Summer Flowering Bulb Plants
13. Alliums – “Giganteum”,” Purple Sensation “and” Mont Blanc”
Alliums are grown for their showy flower heads, coming in a wide range of sizes with colours of blue, white, lilac, purple and yellow. My favourite summer varieties are well renowned and easy to grow.
“Giganteum” is a very large variety with umbels of distinct violet flowerheads, measuring up to 15 cm in diameter in maturity.
“Purple Sensation” hold an Award of Garden Merit, and are fantastic planted in a group where their fist-sized vivid purple heads bring height to any flower bed.
“Mont Blanc” is an elegant white-headed allium that produces tiny star-like flowers, which together form large, creamy white balls.
14. Lilium – “Stargazer”, “Brasilia” and “White Heaven”
Lilies add a touch of the exotic to any garden, whether in a flower bed or planted in pots. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from, with colours in every shade possible. Lily blooms are one of the most recognised ornamental flowers around and perfect for the cut flower garden.
“Stargazer” is my trusty friend and is planted throughout many of the beds in my garden. It never fails to surprise me with its beautiful towering form, heavenly scent, and deep pink blooms, laced with white edging. A truly stunning variety.
“Brasilia” is another of the highly scented Asian lilies, standing slightly taller than Stargazer at 1.2 meters. Its large white, trumpet-shaped flowers are edged in rose pink, and each petal has little rose dot markings. A very delicate, pretty flower.
My favourite pure white Lily is “White Heaven”. This is a highly fragrant variety growing to a height of around 90cm, with large trumpets of pure white flowers with light green throats.
15. Crocosmia – “Lucifer” and “Citronella”
Crocosmia are very hardy perennials, and the bulbs will continue to multiply year upon year.
Most noteworthy is “Lucifer”: the tallest and brightest variety, with small-but-superb, bright red flowers borne on long, arching stems. These are well-loved for their late summer display, when other border perennials are beginning to fade. These like a sheltered site.
In contrast, “Citronella” grows to a smaller 60 cm in height, and has a reliable and popular yellow-flowered form. Small, trumpet-shaped flowers are borne on strap-like foliage during the late summer to early autumn months.
16. Alstromeria – “aurea Lutea” (The Peruvian Lily)
There’s quite a good selection of Alstomeria available, all of which are brightly coloured and splendid for cutting. This top variety grows on long, strong stems to around a meter in height, producing abundant clusters of lily- shaped bright yellow flowers with little brown speckles.
17. Gladiolus – “Rose Supreme”, “Mademoiselle de Paris”, and “Florentina”
Gladioli make charming additions to any garden, with their tall spires of trumpet-shaped blossoms and pointed sword-like leaves.
“Rose Supreme” is, in my opinion, one of the prettiest ruffled varieties for the cutting garden. Large salmon pink and cream blooms provide a long-lasting floral display.
Another great beauty is “Mademoiselle de Paris”: a more compact variety in the butterfly strain. These have smaller, but very decorative bright red flowers with broad white throats. These are very stylish “Parisienne” perennials.
The “Florentina” is one of the large flowering Dutch gladioli, and will reach a height of up to 1.2 meters. Its flowers are simply stunning, boasting large white trumpet-shaped blooms with red throats.
18. Eucomis – “commosa” and “Pallidiflora” The Giant Pineapple Lily
These Eucomis look especially good when planted with the gladioli varieties above. These bulbous perennials form a basal rosette of strap-shaped leaves with an erect stem bearing a dense raceme of tiny greenish-white star-shaped flowers. Due to these traits, it’s a very good structural plant.
The “Pallidiflora” variety is very similar, growing to around 75 cm tall but is slightly more vigorous.
19. Camassia – “leichtlinii” and “leichtlinii Alba”
Towering, statuesque summer flowering bulb plants with spires of blue or white star-shaped flowers that last for ages. Easy to grow and very tolerant of sun or light shade, these will reach around 90 cm in maturity.
“Leichtlinii” is the mid-blue variety and “Alba” is the white version. This is a new favourite to go on my list.
20. Dahlia – “Fascination”, “Bishop of Llandaff”, “Biddenham Sunset”
As someone who loves big floral blooms, dahlias are some of my “plants of perfection”. I love the fact that these tubers will expand quickly, allowing for division in wintertime.
Dig these up in dormancy because they dislike the frost. Dry out the tubers over the winter in a frost-free zone and divide larger clumps up before re-planting in the spring time. As a result, you’re guaranteed to have some impressive flower beds when the dahlias start to flower.
“Fascination” is a variety that never fails to please. This one boasts semi-double blooms of vivid pink set against stunning dark foliage.
“Bishop of Llandaff” is a striking, bright red dahlia and one of the most popular. It’s a gorgeous variety with stunning red flowers sets amongst deep, dark foliage. These will produce an abundance of glorious flowers from June to October.
“Biddenham Sunset” is bright, beautiful and reliable with cactus-style, pointed petals with flowers that range from yellow to a deep burnt orange. The blooms measure up to 18cm across and create an explosion of colour.
21. Crinum x powellii – “Album”
These large herbaceous bulbs bring a delicately, tropical touch to any sunny flower garden. Long, lily shaped, pendulous white flowers grow on crowns of tall, fresh green stems. These lovely exotic bulbs either need protection against frost, or digging up, during the winter months.
Must-Have Autumn Flowering Bulb Plants
22. Nerine bowdenii (Guernsey Lily) – “sarucensis” and “Companion Mr John”
The bulbs of the Nerine bowendii produce a breathtaking plant, especially on a dull autumnal day. Loose umbels of pink, trumpet-shaped flowers appear on the tips of tall stems and carry a faint musky scent. Grown as a block or in a row, both of the above varieties prove to be a lively addition to the flower garden. The flowers are long lasting and keep well when used for cutting.
23. Amaryllis (Belladonna Lily) – “belladonna”
The Belladonna lily is a showy bulbous perennial with erect stems, each bearing a crown of funnel-shaped, fragrant, rose-pink flowers. Each flower grows up to 10 cm in length, opening in the autumn before the long, strap-like leaves appear.
24. Acidanthera – “murielae”
I have recently come to appreciate the Acidanthera plant for their long-lasting and fragrant cut flower stems. A true favourite of the Victorians and a cousin of the gladiolus, it has tall, slender stems and white, star-shaped flowers deep purple throats.
25. Crocus (Autumn flowering) – “cancellatus”
This delicate-looking crocus is easy to grow and remains a slightly unusual variety. Heavily veined, violet blue flowers force their way to the surface of the soil before the foliage appears. For maximum impact, plant in swathes throughout borders, gravel gardens and rockeries. Most noteworthy, this is a great low-growing naturalizing bulb, at just 10 cm tall.
26. Colchicum autumnale
Also known as the “Autumn Crocus”, “Meadow Saffron or “Naked Ladies”. The Colchicum are a member of the lily family, growing up to 15 cm tall with erect, strap-shaped leaves. The crocus-like, lavender pink, goblet-shaped flowers appear in autumn in small groups. As a result, they’re very effective when planted in swathes.
27. Hesperantha coccinea “Major”
Also known as the “Crimson Flag Lily”, this Hesperantha grows to a height of around 60 cm with spreading grassy-leaved shoots that send up slender flower spires. On mild autumn and winter days, the flowers open to reveal shallow, cherry red, cup-shaped flowers that glisten in the sunlight. A delicate and elegant autumnal bulb.
28. Dahlia – “Stolze Von Berlin” and “Eveline”
Most dahlias will continue to flower throughout the whole summer, hence I thought I’d list a couple more interesting varieties.
My first is a pompom dahlia that produces fabulous double spherical flowers that are lilac pink in colour. The “Stolze Von Berlin” is a popular cut flower with strong stems and small rounded flower heads.
“Eveline” has a slightly looser flower form whose white flowers bear a flush of lilac at the petals’ centres edges. An alluring beauty with subtle colouring and medium-sized pompom flowers.
29. Amarine – “Anastasia”
A relatively new variety of the Amaryllis X Nerine hybrid, with large umbels of vibrant pink lily-shaped flowers atop single stems. Bred purely for the cut flower industry, each flower has a deeper pink mid-stripe and is surrounded by strap-like, deep green foliage. A very striking flower growing to a height of around 40 cm in maturity.
30. Amarcrinum – “Howardii”
Another interesting hybrid, taking the most favourite traits from their parents the Amaryllis belladonna and Crinum. The result is most rewarding, with their delicate umbels of trumpet-shaped, blushed, pale pink flowers atop bright green, glossy, strap-like foliage. An impressive, beautiful flowering bulb which earns its place in the cutting garden.
Many of the perennial bulbs listed above will continue to flower into the following season, allowing for some overlapping.
Why not choose your own favourite garden bulbs to plant, creating your own beautiful and productive flower garden?
I guarantee all of the above plants will give hours of pleasure and create a show-stopping flower garden throughout the Spring, Summer and Autumn months. You will be the envy of your friends.