Hyacinths, daffodils, crocus and tulip bulbs

Small bulbs are easier to plant because you don’t have to dig a deep hole.


Chionodoxa is not very well-known, but it performs beautifully every spring.

In our front garden, there is a bed that runs along the sidewalk. I love to fill it with spring-blooming bulbs every year — usually tulips. Because tulips don’t put on a good show after the first year, I treat them as annuals. Said another way, they make their way to the compost pile after they’ve bloomed.

I like to try new color combinations or just “something different.” It’s fun to pick out the bulbs, but planting takes a fair bit of time in the fall, when there are lots of other chores. There  have been years where I don’t get around to the bulb planting. Or maybe I get a little lazy.

This year I’ve decided on a more permanent solution. I have planted dozens of small bulbs that bloom early and come back reliably over the years. I might find that I have to refresh the display with a couple dozen new bulbs every fall, but, for the most part, I suspect it will be self-sustaining.

Slideshow: Get more detail on my planting technique in step-by-step photos.

My planting technique is detailed in a slideshow, but here’s the overview: I picked out an assortment of crocus, chionodoxa, species tulips (sometimes called “wild tulips”), small daffodils and a few hyacinths.

Toronto and Quebec tulips

These Toronto and Quebec tulips are smaller than traditional tulips and they bloom earlier.

I dug out the entire planting area to a depth of 4-6″, which is fine for most of these small bulbs. I made individual, deeper holes for the hyacinths, which need to be planted at 6-8″.

I planted the hyacinths first, creating random clusters of three bulbs. Then, I made small drifts of two types of daffodils and the species tulips. I filled the gaps with crocus and chionodoxa.

That’s it! The project took less than an hour and I covered about 40 square feet. Now I just sit back and wait for spring.