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Bulbs with Alpines

Because most alpine flowers show their bloom in late spring you can add bulbs in the rock garden, trough or raised beds to prolong the flowering season. With their erect habit, upright flowers and spear-like leaves, bulbous plants contrast well with the low, mounded or spreading habit of most alpines. They also introduce a greater variety of forms. Use dwarf bubs with dainty blooms to complement the character of the alpines. Use some bulbs to grow through and lift the alpine planting. To allow your bulbs to grow well in your alpine setting, avoid using mat-forming alpines that exhaust the soil around the bulbs and so deprive them of food.

Bulbs in the rock garden
Many smaller bulbs will grow well in rock gardens with sharp drainage and a place in sun or partial shade. Dwarf bulbs look attractive when they are planted in pockets of rock or offset against the grit top-dressing of the bed. The top-dressing will also help them to keep their bloom clean from being muddied during wet weather. If your rock garden is planted with very small alpines then is best to use small bulbs as taller bulbs will look out of proportion to their neighbors.

Bulbs in troughs
Old stone troughs make an attractive setting for a collection of dwarf bulbs and small alpine plants. They can be placed in a spot where their tiny charms may be appreciated at close hand. In troughs, bulbs will benefit from the gritty and well-drained soil and you can water them as they need it. Too keep the display in a pleasant proportion is best to use the smallest species of bulbs and their less robust hybrids.

Bulbs in a leaf-mold bed
Perfect growing conditions for dwarfer woodland bulbs like trilliums or erythroniums with their dainty, reflexed flowers in shades of pink, white or yellow are offered by a shady raised bed filled with leaf mold and well-rotted garden compost. They will look good whether planted on their own or with ericaceous shrubs or alpines.

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They are half hardy, cormous perennials from sandy, lowland soils to rocky upland slopes in South Africa, growing from a corm of 1-2.5 cm diameter, which sends up a tuft of narrow leaves of 10-30 cm long and a sparsely branched stem of 10-40 cm tall bearing a few leaves and a loose one-sided spike of funnel-shaped, usually scented, brightly colored flowers that appear in late winter to early spring. There are both double and single flower forms. Their color may vary from white to pink, orange, red, yellow, blue or lavender.

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