When it comes to designing in space, I'm not much good. Even Felder Rushing's advice to just group 'roundy, spiky and frilly' together is a little too intentional for me. Don't even get me started on 'bad' color combinations I've foisted on the world.
But when it comes to designing in time, I am intentional about having something interesting to get me outside as early in the season as possible. With our gray winters and often surly springs, anything that blooms in March and April is especially welcome. So the advice I most often offer to folks is: Plant more early-flowering spring ephemerals. You won't regret it.
Some of my favorites include (in rough order of flowering here, depending on where they're situated):
Iris histrioides â€˜Katharine Hodgkinâ€™:
A few other bulb design notes ...
Some folks rescue pets. I rescue tulips. We have too many deer and other hungry critters in our neighborhood to justify investing much in tulips. But I do collect pots of spent forced tulips from co-workers who think I'm crazy. And instead of dumping them in the compost, I hold them until fall (by which time I've forgotten what color they are) and plant them around. If they live, great. If they get eaten, nothing lost except my time. The clownish color combinations are cheery mid-spring:
If you want to go all-out, you can plant a bulb labyrinth, like this one at the Bluegrass Lane Turf and Landscape Research Facility at Cornell.
In addition to the spring ephemerals and rescued tulips, I should also mention that I count Nectaroscorum among my favorite flowers.
Oh, and when it comes to the 'Is it OK to paint allium seedheads?' question, I weigh in on the yes side, even though I don't paint my own. (I'll be posting a video on the subject very soon.)
And finally, a shamelss plug: If you work with children or youth or on community beautification projects, you might be interested in The Bulb Project website, which features activities and other educational resources. (Full disclosure: It's a freelance project that I work on.)
In my day job, I work as a communications specialist in the Department of Horticulture at Cornell University. I take on freelance jobs from time to time. More gardeners than I can remember have given me plants and freely shared their wisdom. I try to do the same.