If you want a good display of bulbs next Spring, here are a few ideas.
Watch local authority parks â€“ they use a lot of natural planting schemes (i.e. bulbs planted in grass). These are cost effective and require less maintenance than formal displays which have to be lifted and replanted with bedding plants. But you have to allow six weeks after flowering before you can cut the grass, so it will not suit a formal lawn.
The obvious ones to try in grass are crocus, snowdrops, daffodils and narcissus species. For ease of planting you can purchase a special bulb planting tool which you push in to the particular depth required for the size of the bulb.
When purchasing bulbs, always check that they are firm and healthy. Definitely buy the top grades as they will always give you better value for money over the years and if you can afford to, buy your bulbs in reasonable numbers of the same colour. Remember, in nature, plants are nearly always seen in the wild in large splashes of the same colour and your initial investment will reap you rewards of colour for years.
Now to areas and types for planting:
For a woody or semi-shaded spot, the obvious bulb to plant is the snowdrop, but often forgotten are bluebells and muscari, anemones and botanical crocus, all of which will brighten a shady or dull area.
For rock and alpine gardens, the smaller rockery and botanical tulips are good ones to pick, many of which are two-toned or striped red/gold or red/cream. Crocus hybrids too are useful in the rockery for early colour, as are small fritiallarias, anemonies, dwarf iris and scillas.
For a real trest, add a few dwarf daffodils (e.g. the multi-headed Hawera or the long-lasting February Gold) to lift those dreich days we often get prior to Spring.
If you are going to use bulbs in a formal setting in the garden flower beds or borders, tulips and untreated hyacinths usually work very well. We could take a leaf from our Dutch friends’ book and copy some of the mass displays of hyacinths planted in Holland every year. For the scent alone they’re worth having â€“ especially near the house.
In West Lothian, where we tend to get strong prevailing westerly winds, especially in early Spring, I personally prefer to plant dwarf early tulips in a bed. They’re much sturdier stemmed than the tall varieties, with larger blooms and, best of all, they have a sweet scent to rival hyacinths.
Tubs and Planters
Don’t neglect pots, tubs and planters when the bedding plants come to their end in autumn. Give them a fresh topping of compost and fill with either tulips, hyacinths or dwarf daffodils. Finish the tub with winter pansies, polyanthus or dwarf wall-flower and you will have a continuous show through the winter with flowering bulbs to follow in the Spring.
September is fine to start planting up prepared hyacinths for Christmas and winter displays indoors. Use special bulb compost which is designed to cope with non-draining pots and keep the same colours in the same pots, as different colours bloom at different times and you would get a fragmented display.