Planning ahead for spring…

Spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils, crocus and tulips may not be the first plants that pop in to your mind this month, but now is the time to start thinking of them as they are available to buy as bulbs now The majority of spring bulbs benefit from early planting in September, with the exception of tulip bulbs that should not be planted until November to diminish the risk of tulip fire.

Daffodils are perhaps the flower that most symbolises spring.
Available in hues of yellow, white, pink and salmon and in a range of sizes and forms, there are plenty of varieties to choose from. Remember when choosing your bulbs, size really does matter. (The bigger the bulb, the better the quality of the bulb).

Daffodils ideally want to be planted by the end of September. They are suitable for growing in pots, in borders or even in the lawn. Aim to plant bulbs in groups of at least six, the more bulbs are grouped together, the better the display they’ll give. Typically 25-50 bulbs may be needed to make an impressive show. Daffodil bulbs need to be planted at a depth that is double the height of the bulb. Plant the bulb nose or shoot upwards and space them at least twice the bulb’s width apart.

“Rainbow” a white daffodil with a peach cup and pink rim is this year’s ‘UK Daffodil of the Year’. There are several fragrant varieties of daffodil available, look out for “Pheasant’s Eye” or the multi-headed “Cheerfulness” available in white or yellow. Dwarf specie varieties such as the well known “Tete a Tete” are popular varieties and usually shorter in height making them ideal for containers or windy spots. Keep an eye out for less well known varieties such as “Pipit” (a dwarf fragrant bicolour) or “Thalia” (a fragrant white multi-headed) for something a bit different.

Tulip bulbs are very easy to grow and look fabulous planted in large groups in the garden or in pots and containers.Tulips are available in virtually all colours, including a purple so deep that it looks black. When choosing tulips, consider their flowering times, suitability for borders, containers or a rock garden where smaller varieties such as ‘Cape Cod’ or ‘Heart’s Delight’ can be used.

Plant tulips in large drifts or dot them around in small groups to create eye-catching groups of bright colour throughout. Some flower as early as March and others not until May. For a real colourful display of tulips in a container try layering three different varieties in a pot. The largest, latest flowering bulbs go deepest, moving to the earliest, shortest varieties in the top layer. This is what the Dutch call a “bulb lasagne”! Plant the bulbs at least twice the bulbs width apart and at a depth of two – three times the bulbs height. Tulip bulbs, although purchased this month want to be planted Oct/Nov.

By planting a selection of varieties you can enjoy a colourful display from early spring through to early summer. Look out for new varieties such as ‘Labrador’ a heavily fringed burgundy lily-flowered tulip or ‘The First’ a red and white very early flowering dwarf tulip.

Planting spring bulbs is an easy way of achieving a colour coordinated spring display. Choosing a colour combination for your garden is no different to choosing a colour scheme for your home. Colour sets the mood of a bed/border, particular relationships between colours give certain results. There are warm and cool colours in all gardens. All hues have an impact. For contrast combine warm and cool colours and to create harmonies, combine colours that are close to each other in tone and intensity.

First, plan the look you want achieve, then purchase your bulbs. Remember to check flowering times if you want to create a colour combination. Tulip bulbs are perhaps the easiest bulb to plan with as they are available in almost every colour. They can be mixed with other bulbs or can create an amazing display using just this flower. Try combining crisp white tulips with the almost purple/black varieties for a simple yet stunning combination.  If you don’t want to mix different bulbs together in a pot why not try planting a single variety in a pot and then group a selection of pots together to make a display.

Naturalising bulbs

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 themselves.

Autumn flowering bulbs

If you don’t want to wait until spring for your bulbs to flower, why not try planting a few autumn flowering bulbs? Crocuses are some of the best known autumn bulbs, forcing their blooms through fallen leaves to give a festival of colour. Autumn crocuses (Colchicum), particularly Colchicum Waterlily, with their lilac-pink double flowers, look good in groups or in naturalised lawns. They’re best planted in dry, sheltered spots beneath trees and shrubs.

Sternbergia, commonly known as the autumn daffodil make excellent bulbs for autumn colour. They’re Mediterranean natives, so enjoy full sun and a well-drained soil.