Now is the time to plan your spring display by planting spring bulbs in and around your garden.Here are some ideas to follow to get the best results in the spring.
When to plant
If you want to fill your garden with colour next spring, plant bulbs from September to December, before the first frost. Daffodils, tulips, crocus, grape hyacinths and fritillarias are just some of the plants to choose from.
How to buy bulbs
Most bulbs have a long dormant period, requiring little attention for much of the year. When buying bulbs check they’re healthy and as fresh as possible, or your spring show could be a washout.Avoid any that are damaged, shrivelled or feel soft, and go for plump, firm bulbs. Aim to plant within a week or they’ll start to sprout. When possible, check that the plants have been obtained from reliable growers, rather than from stock that has been collected from the wild.
Where to plant
Choose bulbs according to location and soil type. Most hardy bulbs originate from the Mediterranean, thriving in a warm, sunny climate in freely draining soil. Good drainage and plenty of sunshine is key, since most bulbs are prone to rot while dormant.
Planting bulbs in a herbaceous border will help to fill in gaps and provide colour and interest before perennials and shrubs begin to grow in early spring. Plant daffodils, winter aconites, tulips and fritillarias for outstanding colour. Drifts of single species can be planted to blend in with the general planting scheme of the garden, or try mixing different varieties to create an even and striking effect of bright colour.
When planted en masse, spring-flowering bulbs make a valuable contribution to formal bedding displays. Try growing groups of early-flowering tulips in a bed which will be occupied by annuals later in the summer. As a general rule, the larger, showy varieties are better suited to a formal position in the garden.
Many spring-flowering bulbs are ideal for brightening up the base of trees before they come into full leaf. The soil beneath trees is moist and light, offering the perfect growing conditions for scillas, anemones, erythroniums and crocuses.
Bulbs such as dwarf daffodils, crocuses, snowdrops and winter aconites can transform a dull looking lawn into a wonderful display of colour. To achieve a natural look, throw bulbs up in the air and plant them exactly where they land in the grass. The aim is to make it look as though they have decided to grow there by themselves. Allow plants to die down after flowering before mowing over the lawn. Alternatively, plant bulbs in defined areas so that it’s possible to mow the lawn around them.
Bulbs in pots
If you want a great patio display, try growing bulbs in pots. Keep it simple by planting a variety on its own or several of the same variety packed closely together for a bumper show. Several types can be planted together, but it’s tricky to get the flowers to appear at the same time
How to plant
Bulbs are some of the easiest garden plants to grow, needing only a well-drained soil and some sunshine. As a general rule, plant bulbs two to three times their own depth and around two bulb widths apart.
It’s important to plant bulbs with its top facing upwards. If unsure, plant the bulb on its side.Replace the soil after planting, breaking down any large clumps and firm in gently, making sure there are no air spaces around the bulbs.
Bulbs in lawns
Naturalise bulbs in lawns by taking a handful and dropping from waist height.Plant where they land with a strong trowel or bulb planter – these are ideal for digging into heavy clay soil. To use, push the cylindrical blade down, twist and pull up a plug of soil.Drop the bulb in, flattest side down, and crumble the plug into the hole.In order to save time, try planting a large number of small bulbs by lifting a piece of turf and planting a group of bulbs in the soil.
Bulbs in pots
When growing bulbs in a pot, pick a container that is the right size and will complement your chosen bulbs.If you are using a clay pot with a large drainage hole in the base, cover it with a piece of broken pot.Fill pots with general-purpose compost, mixed with a handful of horticultural grit to improve drainage then water after planting.
Bulbs in pots need more care than those in soil.Keep the compost moist and protect from frost by wrapping with bubble wrap over winter. Cover with a piece of chicken wire to prevent squirrels, mice and voles from digging them out. Remove it when shoots appear.
Five easy bulbs to try
Narcissus ‘Tête-à-Tête’ – a compact variety with golden trumpets in early spring. Plant with snowdrops in the lawn.
Tulipa ‘Queen of Night’ – striking purple flowers and is perfect in a big pot with mauve wallflowers.
Fritillaria meleagris – wonderful, purple, bell-shaped flowers look perfect naturalised in grass
Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick’ – this variety has delicate white flowers, veined with deep purple. Crocuses come in many shades, from white to purple, and flower from early spring. Naturalise or plant them in small pots.
In future posts I will detail what I’ve planted and where, then hopefully in the spring we can see the lovely spread of colour.