Marking bulb plantings

Autumn sends northern gardeners’ thoughts to spring when bulbs cheerily bloom and chase away a gardener’s winter doldrums. But when planting groups of spring-blooming bulbs, how do you mark their location?

When I first began planting bulbs, I had smaller gardens with fewer plantings making it easy to recall where I dug in each grouping. Through years of adding bulb plantings to my expanding gardens, it became harder to keep track of the exact location of each bulb group. Many springs I surprised myself by forgetting about the location of a previous autumn’s bulb planting. This is not a bad thing, but it’s not exactly good gardening practice. Then, after accidentally digging into a group of bulbs during one of my many perennial bed rearranging spurts, I began marking each bulb planting in some way.

The obvious labeling option is to stick a plant tag into the ground towards the rear of each grouping. I suppose this works for botanical gardens and/or really, really organized gardeners using special metal plant markers, but such markers become quite an investment. Less expensive wooden or plastic plant tags either decay or break and I’m just not a fan of the sight of plant tags sticking out of perennial beds during snow-less winter months. Besides, I’m not that organized!

This led to a different obvious marking method … rocks. In New England we ‘grow’ as many rocks as anything, so encircling each planting with rocks became my go-to method. Flat rocks nicely mark bulb plantings when bulb foliage is no longer visible. Rocks blend into summer-blooming plantings. Rocks are free and abundant. Plus it’s easy to expand a rock circle outward as bulb groupings expand in size.

Spring bulb planting marked by a circle of flat rocks.

Spring bulb planting marked by a circle of flat rocks.

My absolute favorite method, though, uses re-purposed metal bands from no longer usable barrels … yep, those half-barrels sold as planters. The circular bands that once held wooden barrel slats in shape are perfect bulb-planting markers in my gardens.

Spring bulb planting marked with a re-purposed metal barrel band.

Spring bulb planting marked with a re-purposed metal barrel band.

The bands clearly mark bulb plantings, stay in place and don’t break or decay. The bands virtually disappear from view as neighboring perennials grow and, since I like to use old garden tools as garden ornaments, the rusty, old barrel bands fit right into my garden design style.

And while on the subject of planting bulbs … for the most look-at-me impact, plant bulbs in groupings of 5 to 10 bulbs per planting hole. Please avoid planting a row of one bulb in one hole. They’ll end up looking like a bunch of schoolchildren lined up to head to the lunch room.

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4 comments for “Marking bulb plantings

  1. November 7, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    That’s a great idea with the rocks and planting in groups. I have a BIG problem with Aphids. First in the front of the house now all over my gardens. I threw out all the infected plants. I tried everything. Please help.

    • November 7, 2014 at 7:02 pm

      Carol, in general, aphids can be controlled with 10 to 1 spray of water to dish washing detergent such as Dawn liquid. They can also be controlled by strong spray of water which washes them off. The key with both methods is to spray all surfaces of each plant … the top and undersides of leaves, the stems, in any blossoms, and in the junctions between leaves and stems. Also, both methods must be repeated about every week or two to maintain control. You don’t say what growing zone you garden in. In cold zones, such as Connecticut, aphids die off when temperatures drop.

      I’ve had years when aphids were very prolific followed by years when they were barely an issue. They seem to run in cycles, like many garden pests. Maintaining an organic garden that encourages the presence of aphid predators seems to be the best control method over time.

  2. November 11, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    What good suggestions. So far, I have few enough bulbs in perennial beds that I can remember where they are. And I do remember that my first planting of tulips ended up with them coming up in Spring looking like soldiers in disciplined rows 🙂 !

    • November 13, 2014 at 8:38 am

      Jean, planting in disciplined rows is common among many new, and some seasoned, gardeners! Glad you like my bulb marking suggestions. They’ve made a big difference in my planting schemes. One positive aspect I neglected to mention … with bulb plantings marked I can ‘visualize’ where they are and how they looked in the late summer/early autumn when planning locations for new bulbs.

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