Planting for Spring’s Blooms

January 23, 2021

Spring and Summer Bulbs in the Bishop’s Garden

Even on a relatively mild and sunny January day, it is clearly still winter. We have a couple of months before we can daily see reliable signs of spring, and often the first place these signs are evident is in a garden. Spring-blooming bulbs are always a joy to  behold and a deserved reward and deferred gratification for the gardener who spends hours digging bulbs into the soil in the autumn.

Bishop’s Garden Horticulturist Adrienne Schopf explained where and why bulbs are planted in the Bishop’s Garden. The largest display of bulbs is in the Sundial bed, where 1,300 red and purple tulips were planted. These are mixed with hyacinths, anemones, and allium. The tulips in the Sundial bed we treat as annuals- a few will come back, but not reliably, and not as showy. It was decided several years ago that the Sundial bed would feature bulbs in the spring and in the summer have a themed design of annuals. This allows for variety and a great show without massive uprooting of perennials in the other beds.

Varieties of tulips planted are: Bastogne, Couleur Cardinal, Negrita, Passionale, Purple Prince, Rococo, Kingsblood, Purple Dream, and Red Princess. With this mix we achieve varied bloom times (early, mid, and late) and textures (parrot, lily, and singles). When February turns to March, keep your eye on the Sundial bed and revisit often to see the developing blooms.

Bulbs Bloom Throughout the Cathedral’s Gardens and Grounds

Though more limited, some bulbs are still planted in the Upper Border, Lower Border, and Idyllwild Bed. We try to plant bulbs that are more “perennial” in those borders – daffodils, alliums, anemones, species tulips, and grape hyacinth. That way they will re-bloom in following years, and we’re not having to plant as many bulbs around existing perennials. We plant some in these borders every fall to supplement existing bulbs. Bulbs are also planted in newly designed areas; there are daffodils and grape hyacinths in the Pollinator Garden. Next fall, we’ll add bulbs around Church House and the Café in their new beds.

With the Help of the Gardeners, Spring Will Bring a Profusion of Blooms

Spring-blooming bulbs are truly beauty in the eye of the beholder – snowdrops in a woodsy setting or daffodils against a stone wall – but the spring profusion of blooms in the Bishop’s Garden is both a triumph of nature and a tribute to the unstinting labors of our gardeners. Thank you!

Spring in the Bishop’s Garden Sundial Bed


All Hallows Guild was founded in 1916 to provide for the care and beautification of the grounds of Washington National Cathedral. The Guild works closely with the horticultural staff to preserve this historic landscape and raises funds for renovation and renewal of the gardens.


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