Bulbs in the lawn

I like putting spring bulbs right in the front lawn for a couple of reasons. It's the sunniest part of my yard and also the plants really seem to like it. The daffodils you see here were not planted last fall as you might think. Instead they are the naturalized bulbs that have come back every year over the past three to four seasons. I notice that some of my favorites never make another appearance after their initial run while others return in bigger, sturdier clumps each time. We have dozens of hybrids and they bloom over many weeks in April and May. I've tried to identify those that have naturalized particularly well in the captions below.

I like the small-cupped Poeticus types since they're usually fragrant. Narcissus 'Angel Eyes' (above)

Left to right: Narcissus 'Accent', 'Sagitta' and 'Jamestown'

'Mon Cherie' (I think). I once thought I wouldn't like the pink daffodils but in real life they aren't really very pink after all—more of a beautiful tawny blush color.

'Flower Record' (above) naturalizes very well

Daffodils, grape hyacinths, squills and fritillaries grow in their discrete groups (above)

This year I have both purple and white snake's head lilies (Fritillary meleagris) coming up all over the lawn. Even though I remember planting them in one spot, they seem to travel around on their own. Perhaps the seeds are transported by animals? Anyway, it's exciting—for me at least—to discover these strange flowers in places you had no idea they'd end up.

'Pistachio' (left) really is kind of greenish. Two colors of fritillaries have come up next to a clump of daffodils (right)

The secret to naturalizing bulbs is to ignore them. I don't fertilize or even irrigate them once their planted—granted it has been pretty rainy these past years. In the fall I just slice open crescents of turf, fold them back and dig down holes to the proper depth (usually 6-8 inches). I then put in the bulbs and tamp the soil and turf back on top like a lid. 

Once they've finished blooming in the spring you just have to be sure to leave the leaves on long enough to nourish the bulbs. I wait till the foliage starts to yellow which can be mid-June. So be aware that they will look a little wild—some would say messy— until you're able to chop them back. In the meantime we just mow around the clumps and act like we mean it...the neighbors think we're kind of eccentric anyway. PS the deer don't touch them.

But I like them askew

Chad's iphone portrait of 'Professor Einstein' (above)

With so many flowers out front, you never have to feel guilty about cutting some for inside. I find those shiny pieces of coal buried in the yard when I plant bulbs so I bring them inside for the mantle. The dark brown vase on the left was made by Frances Palmer


Keni said...


Beth K said...

Which one is your favorite? Are there some that don't grow well for you?

Michael B. Gordon said...

Thanks for the list of daffodils that naturalize well. I have had mixed success over the years. It is helpful to know some reliable ones to try.

Stephen Orr said...

Hi Michael. Van Engelen sells a "Naturalizing Mix" of daffodils. That has worked pretty well for me over the years. As I said, some varieties come back and others don't inexplicably. The more sun you have the better

Stephen Orr said...

Beth I really love the Jonquil and Poeticus types since they are fragrant. I also like the ones with small cups. There is one called "Sinopel" with a tiny green cup that I've tried to grow several times. It never even came up once!...which is strange for a narcissus

JennyAnn said...

I absolutely love frittilaria. I planted 3 last year, and was happily gifted with quite a few more than that this spring. Do they spread by rhizome? I have freckled violets that are coming up everywhere...they are certainly spreading by way of underground maze of snaking roots.
My favorite daf is the one with the blush center. So beautiful!