Instead of growing our daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs formally—in beds and borders—we naturalize them. This reduces care to almost nothing. What a pleasure just to plant, knowing that with most of the bulbs no further work is needed!
For the greatest effectiveness we grow these naturalized bulbs in broad sweeps. You don’t need a great deal of land to do this. A drift of a few dozen in a small area will be comparable, in its own way, to a great mass of bulbs.
The method is important. Plant bulbs fairly close together and not in symmetrical rows, but informally, casually. One way to do this is to scatter bulbs on the ground and plant each one where it falls. Of course you will always want to have three or five bulbs of a certain variety in front of an old stump or lichened boulder for a specific effect, but in general, you should think in terms of large numbers.
All of the familiar spring bulbs will bloom in semishade, especially under the high, late-developing shade of deciduous trees. These bulbs do well in front of evergreens or mixed in a foundation planting where their many bright colors stand out against the deep, dark greens. They will be gay along stone walls or backed by an outcropping of large gray rocks, bordering the entrance to your place, at the foot of your grape vines, at the edges of the vegetable garden, or the terrace, as well as anywhere in the informal or wilderness parts of your land. You surely have some area just waiting for sweeps of these beauties.
All bulbs must be planted where their foliage can be permitted to die down naturally after the blooming period. During this time they are making next year’s flower buds. If the leaves are cut off before brown and withered, you will have fewer and smaller blossoms next spring—and possibly none at all.
Certain spring bulbs (i.e. grape hyacinths, daffodils, crocuses) definitely do increase from season to season. Certain others, principally tulips, do not multiply and form clumps, but you can depend upon them to make an annual flower display. Some bulbs, such as tall-stemmed tulips and Dutch hyacinths, usually should be replaced every two or three years for best results; these would therefore be debatable for a low or no-upkeep bulb scheme.
Crocuses (members of the iris family) come up first in our garden. Crocus susianus, a. favorite is brilliant gold and the earliest of all. One year ours bloomed in mid-February, but they were in a very protected spot next to the house. The pale lavender Tomasinianus is a close second in earliness, and together these make, therefore, a combination of lavender and gold.
Both increase and form larger clumps from year to year in a satisfying manner. Other crocuses are in colors from white through yellow, blue, lavender, many with striped petals, and vivid stigmata reaching up from the flower center. Some lovely ones include Golden Goblet, Early Perfection (violet-blue), King of the Whites and King of the Blues.
Crocuses are not all spring blooming. From Kurdistan, the Asturia Mountains, and all through the Balkans, have come fall-blooming crocuses in stirring tones—deep blues, violets, purples and white. Sativus (saffron crocus) is lilac; Speciosus is deep blue with orange anthers, and Zonatus is a rosy lilac, very free flowering.
The autumn-blooming colchicum, resembling a crocus but part of the lily family, sends up lovely lavender, white, deep rose, or purple flowers. If you don’t get the hard brown corms into the ground soon enough to suit them (usually by late summer), they sprout and flower on your mantel, or in the paper bag they came in—so strong is their urge to grow. Their foliage appears in the spring and, like that of spring-flowering bulbs, must be allowed to ripen and die naturally to assure their annual fall appearance.
Do investigate crocuses further. You can’t have too many. A hundred in mixed colors at a cost of about six dollars makes a fine sweep.