While you don't have to have a small garden to plant these spring bloomers, these small-space garden bulb suggestions are fantastic alternatives to larger bulbs like tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. Bulbs, corms and tubers--that are not much larger than your finger--can pack a big and colorful punch.
1. Muscari/Grape hyacinth
Grape hyacinth is the common name of Muscari genus of perennial bulbs. The blue varieties are the most commonly seen planted in gardens, but there is a white variety that is just as nice. Often times these tiny bulbs are planted in masse to create undulating rivers of blue in landscapes to great effect. A few handfuls of these bulbs are a great alternative to hyacinths, which are more costly. The small, strappy foliage is easily hiddens or mixed in with grassy paths.
2. Species tulips
I like large, dramatic and colorful tulips as much as the next gardener, but I have to admit that dealing with the ugly foliage of tulips every summer gets to be a pain. So why not plant some species tulips instead? Species tulips are the wild tulips that all of our modern hybrid tulips come from. And while not as popular as the flamboyant hybrid tulips, they provide the same spring color and interest, but in smaller, more compact flowers and foliage. There is enough diversity in species tulips that the creative side of you will not feel constricted. Unlike the hybrid tulips, these tulips will not die out after a few years and need to be replaced. With proper care, these easy-to-grow tulips will naturally propagate and you'll get many free bulbs.
Crocuses are flowering corms in the iris family. Crocus blooms are among some of my favorite of any flowers you'll find in the garden. The "bulb" I'm holding in the picture at the top of this post is a crocus corm. Can you believe that from such a tiny and unattractive things spring these jewel-toned beauties? A big plus, in my book at least, is the grass-like foliage that remains after the bulb has stopped flowering. It looks so much like grass that you can plant crocus bulbs in masse in a lawn and it will make your lawn look lush and alive before its time.
Chionodoxa, better known as glory-of-the-snow--because it is hella easier to pronounce, is another small bulb that doesn't get enough attention by gardeners that plant spring-blooming bulbs. They come in blue, white and pink varities that look like floating stars in the drab spring garden. It's amazing to walk into the garden and see these cheerful little blooms when there's still snow on the ground in the garden.
5. Dwarf Narcissus
Dwarf Narcissus bulbs are a fantastic alternative to growing daffodils. Like tulips, the dead foliage of daffodils just creates an unnecessary garden chore in the summer. There are many cultivars of dwarf narcissus bulbs to choose from and they provide the same rays of color at a fraction of the size of their larger counterparts.
Scilla, sometimes called squill, is another genus of dwarf flowering bulbs that you should plant in your garden. Planted in masse, these petite blue or white flowers can create a striking carpet of blooms in the spring garden.
These minature garden bulbs for small-space gardens are just as attractive as larger bulbs, but their tiny sizes look more proportionate in small and urban gardens. They're easy-to-grow, don't have as messy foliage, fit nicely in pockets of alpine gardens, and planted in masse can put on a flowering show to river large varieties that everyone else in your neighborhood is growing. If you don't plant garden bulbs, and you should, look for a bulb society near you to get acquainted with what you're missing out on.
What are your favorite miniature garden bulbs to plant? I'm particularly interested in learning about small garden bulbs in climates that don't experience snow in winter, so feel free to speak up.