Bobbie Schwartz, FAPLD, is a certified, award-winning landscape designer, is the owner of Bobbie’s Green Thumb in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and is a past president of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. She also lectures nationally on gardening and design. Visit

This article applies to:



Two for One: Making More of Your Space
by Bobbie Schwartz, FAPLD    

Everyone loves a bargain – and if it’s a two-fer, even better. Gardeners never have enough space, but I have developed some strategies that double my space – using bulbs with shrubs, grasses or perennials. Thus I have color in my garden, sometimes in February and definitely in March, long before spring has actually arrived.


1. Use the space under woody plants that don’t leaf out until late March or early April, and, if they bloom, do not perform until May or June. Masses of small bulbs like Galanthus spp., Eranthis spp., Crocus spp., dwarf Narcissus spp., and Scilla siberica provide a welcome mass of color when skies are still gray.

2. Many years ago, I planted Narcissus spp. and Scilla siberica between my warm-season grasses (Pennisetum spp., Panicum spp., and Miscanthus spp.) that I cut back no later than mid-March or early April. By the time the bulb foliage is dying, the new grass shoots fill the space.

3. I’m very fond of the evergreen perennial ground cover variegated mountain rockcress (Arabis caucasica ‘Variegata’), with its green-and-white foliage and white April blooms. I have interplanted it with the tiny and delicate Anemone blanda ‘White Splendour’.

4. There are many underused small bulbs. Grape hyacinth (Muscari spp.) blooms long before any Sedum.

5. Allium unifolium  and Allium roseum are both 12 inches high and have a semi-mounded head that I plant in the semi-evergreen Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’. The bright pink geranium strengthens the pink theme that begins with the soft lavender pink Allium unifolium.

6. I plant the 2-foot, June-blooming, maroon Allium atropurpureum between Geranium psilostemon, which sports its magenta flowers at the same time, and poker plant (Kniphofia spp.), which makes its splash in July.

7. The short but large pale lavender balls of Allium christophii steal the scene in late May when planted between masterwort (Astrantia spp.) that does not bloom until June.

8. Everyone comments on giant allium (Allium giganteum), but the foliage looks like it is dying at least two weeks before the bulbs bloom. Therefore, I place it behind the lush foliage of Geranium psilostemon.

9. My last strategy is layering bulbs on top of each other. I frequently plant large bulbs such as Narcissus spp., Fritillaria imperialis, the larger Allium spp., and Lilium spp. 6 to 8 inches deep, cover them with 3 to 4 inches of soil, and then plant the smaller bulbs on top of them. Usually the smaller bulbs bloom first and then the foliage of the larger bulbs covers them as they fade away. If you choose carefully, some bulbs will bloom together, such as Chionodoxa luciliae, contrasting nicely with a somewhat larger bulb like Tulipa ‘Waterlily’. This works best with species tulips that live more than one year.

Aren’t you glad you can now plant twice the plants without increasing the amount of space?

From State-by-State Gardening November/December 2013. Photos by Bobbie Schwartz, FAPLD.


Posted: 01/15/14   RSS | Print


Share this story on:
Facebook       Twitter            

Other People Are Reading