There’s nothing more beautiful for a spring wedding than a big bouquet of fresh flowers – even moreso when they are cut from your own garden. In Edmonton, planting fall bulbs can lead to a lovely selection of flowers in the spring. Continuing on from last week’s introduction to growing your own wedding flowers in Edmonton, today Amy Sanderson of Amy Sanderson Flowers shares some specifics about planting the right fall bulbs to make a beautiful bridal bouquet. Enjoy!
I am a spring flower addict. There is nothing more romantic to me than the delicate colours and textures of flowers like ranunculus, fritillaria, and lilac. Even a simple bouquet of lily of the valley is a sensual experience. Spring bulbs gift us with some of the best cut flowers and I wait all year for them.
The season of exultation starts with the emergence of snowdrops in April, followed by other small ephemerals like crocuses and scilla, and then the grand show of May with daffodils, tulips and all manner of flowering shrubs. With a little luck and fall planning, you can grow your own beautiful flowers for a spring wedding.
In Edmonton, October is the best time to plant spring-flowering bulbs, in order to give them time to grow some roots before a hard freeze. This means you should be buying and planting your bulbs now.
When considering bulbs’ suitability for the cut flower garden I look for colour, stem length, and hardiness (we are technically zone 3, but I will take a chance on anything hardy to zone 4 and sometimes even zone 5). I also try to have early and late blooming varieties wherever possible. To ensure you have flowers for your May wedding, I recommend you do the same!
Following this criteria, tulips are easily the best represented bulb in my garden. They are hardy, reliable, and come in every colour under the sun. They tend to have thick, straight stems that endear them to florists. When choosing tulips I also look at their forms – I am a big fan of so-called ‘lily-flowered’ tulips which have pointed, arched petals that look graceful in arrangements. Some of my favourite singles are ‘Brown Sugar,’ Princess Irene,’ ‘White Triumphator,’ ‘Havran,’ ‘Shirley,’ ‘Apricot Foxx,’ and ‘Ballerina.’ I am less enamoured with double flowering tulips with the exception of ‘Dream Touch,’ which I love unreservedly. You may have come across ‘La Belle Epoque,’ a double tulip that sent the floral world into a tizzy – I tried it this year and found it wasn’t a strong performer, but maybe I just had some bad bulbs.
Another important bulb family in the cut flower garden is, of course, narcissus or daffodils. Some years I haven’t had great return on my bulbs, but I find planting them a few inches deeper than recommended (as I have begun to do with all my bulbs) has been more successful. Daffodils have a short vase life (usually 3-4 days) so they’re best fresh cut for bouquets or event flowers. You can, of course, plant plain yellow daffodils but I think if you’re going to put some effort into growing your own flowers, you may as well choose interesting varieties. I love ‘Barrett Browning,’ ‘Thalia,’ ‘Segovia,’ ‘Minnow,’ ‘Cheerfulness,’ ‘Cool Flame’ and the classic Narcissus poeticus var. recurvus. These are all standard, readily available varieties that will nonetheless set your bouquets apart.
Muscari is my other must-have bulb for cutting. Easy to grow, they will naturalize in your garden and come back year after year. I wouldn’t want to be without the standard blue Muscari armeniacum, but this year I am adding in pink and dark blue varieties as well.
For those willing to take a risk and push the zone I recommend fritillaria. Start with Fritillaria meleagris, with their delicate checkerboard patterning. I grew them this year successfully, and another gardener in Edmonton has had them multiply over the years into a large stand (see below). They are beloved by florists for their texture and wild look. If you have a protected spot you could also try Fritillaria uva-vulpis or Fritillaria michailovskyi. This year I’m trying Fritillaria persica – wish me luck!
A few notes on planting:
When it comes to planting bulbs I tend to follow the instructions provided on the package, except that I plant a few inches deeper. Light requirements (planting in sun vs. shade) can generally be disregarded as the bulbs will come up before any leaves are out, and thus will almost always get sufficient sun to bloom (unless under an evergreen or shaded by the house). That being said, bulbs will definitely bloom earlier in south facing, warm spots in your yard.
Bulbs generally do not appreciate clay-heavy soil (the type most commonly found in Edmonton) given its poor drainage so I usually amend my soil by mixing it with compost or any pre-made soil mix that includes compost/organic matter. Where amending is needed, I like to plant all the bulbs at once by digging a big trench slightly deeper than required and amending all of the soil dug up. Then I backfill with the newly amended soil to the correct depth for the bulbs, arrange the bulbs as desired, and backfill again until the hole is level with the surrounding garden.
For a true cut flower garden, where the bulbs will be pulled up each year, feel free to space your bulbs much closer together than advised. Tulips, for example, can be planted so that they are spaced about the same distance apart as the size of the bulb.
After planting, I mulch my beds with a few inches of leaves to help insulate the ground when there’s no snow cover.
To find bulbs in Edmonton, try these retailers:
Or, try these online sources:
All the best for your bulb planting – we can’t wait to see your spring bouquets!