Bulbs To Grow In The Garden

Last month we talked about growing bulbs indoors for winter so this month let’s look at planting them in the garden for colourful displays next spring.


Bulbs are the hidden surprises in the garden. We plant daffodils, crocus and tulips now and forget them until spring but Autumn Crocus with large rosy pink flowers can be planted now to flower in the autumn. Colchicums flower before the leaves so plant them in groups of 5 bulbs amongst ground cover plants like Vinca Minor or Lamium. These ground cover plants will hide the bulb foliage as it dies back while feeding the bulb for next season. Plant in partial shade and well drained fertile soil. Another type of autumn flowering crocus is Crocus Speciosum a tough and vigorous species in shades from white to purple which will quickly naturalise. It is tolerant to wind and rain so will grow in more exposed places. The foliage is velvety and turns red at the end of the season. Crocus Kotschyanus and Crocus Pulchellus appear next with pale lilac petals and orange centres. In late autumn the Saffron Crocus, Sativus, with deep purple flowers and bright red long stigmas pop up. The stigmas can be cut off and dried to give the much prized spice saffron. The autumn flowering daffodil Sternbergia Lutea with its bright yellow trumpet is another autumn bulb delight when allowed to naturalise, as is Cyclamen Hederifolium planted in light shade under trees and left undisturbed.


Snowdrops are the first harbingers of spring with their snowy white flowers and green markings appearing from late January onwards. These can be disappointing if planted as dry bulbs in autumn, it is more successful to plant green growing plants in spring. If you plant Cyclamen Coum, Species Crocus and Aconites amongst the Snowdrops you will have lots of colour and interest at a time of year when the rest of the garden is still in the winter sleep.


Cyclamen Hederifolium’s tiny pink flowers in autumn are followed by gorgeous silvery marbled foliage. It is more vigorous than C. Coum and will quickly carpet a shady dry area under trees. These small bulbs like dappled shade and are suitable to plant under deciduous trees and shrubs where the soil is dry and well drained. When the leaves fall in autumn leave them as mulch over the bulbs. If left undisturbed all these plants will seed and naturalise quickly forming a spring carpet.


Dwarf Irises grow to 15cms and flower in February and March with their perfect fragrant blooms of white, yellow, china and deep blue and violet. It is important to grow them in drained soil in a sunny or part shaded place. Put fine grade gravel around the bulbs to protect the flowers from being damaged by rain splash.


These early varieties of small naturalising bulbs are followed in March and April by Anemone Blanda and the wood anemone A. Nemorosa. The little starry shaped flowers with pretty feathery leaves are lilac blue, pink and white and associate well with the fragrant Muscari, Grape Hyacinths. Sky blue Scilla Siberia, white Puschkinia Scilloides and china blue Ipheion which will all naturalise in a sunny border.


Dwarf Narcissus and Tulips are also in flower in March and April. They are particularly good to grow in tubs with Primroses, Violas and Panolas. Tete a Tete is the shortest Narcissus at 15cms followed by the multi headed fragrant Double Camperelle and Silver Chimes at 25cms. Jack Snipe, Intrigue and Pipit are also really worth growing.


 Dwarf Tulips are very good planted in containers either mixed with other plants or alone. Varieties like Fire of Love has perfect bright red tulip flowers and striking green foliage with creamy yellow edges and Gluck with lemon and red flowers and blue green leaves striped red. They will make a good display planted alone and are a very low cost way of planting spring containers.


Another cost effective spring planting for tubs is layer planting tall daffodils and narcissus. It is better to use only one variety for each tub. Place a layer of drainage at the bottom of a 40 cm wide and deep container then a layer of compost. Arrange seven bulbs evenly without touching and cover the bulbs with compost, add another layer of nine bulbs and cover with compost again and repeat with a final layer of nine bulbs and cover. The bulbs will all grow to the same height, flower at the same time and make an amazing display.


 Garden Hyacinths make wonderful scented displays in tubs as well. Try Woodstock a gorgeous deep mulberry wine colour, Splendid Cornelia lilac, Royal Navy a deep rich blue or Sweet Invitation which is pale orange pink.


We must not forget “Our Host of Golden Daffodils” and Dutch Tulips. These are excellent to plant directly into the borders and leave undisturbed to flower for many years.


The bright yellow trumpet daffodils are among the old favourites like King Alfred, Carlton, Dutch Master and Camelot but there are also many other lovely variations. Sacajawea has an orange centre and yellow petals, Vanilla Peach has lemon petals and frilly apricot centre and Acropolis is white with an orange centre.


Tall Dutch or Garden Tulips are among my favourite plants. These stately bulbs love a sunny place and I like to see them planted in groups of the same variety. Red Impression is bright scarlet and sumptuous. Pretty Princess is bright rosy pink with red purple flames on the outer petals while Queen of the Night is one of the darkest described as satin black in colour. Brown Sugar is fragrant and apricot pink, Zurel is ivory and deep red and Sunlover changes as it matures from yellow to orange and then red.


Garlic and Japanese Onions are also bulbs and can be planted in October for early crops next year. There are now several varieties of onion to choose from, all are hardy and reliable, it is your personal choice for flavour. We have the yellow onions Senshyu, Radar and Troy or Electric which is bright red for salads. Garlic varieties available now are Marco for that strong garlic flavour, Germidour a mild flavour and Elephant Garlic which is a sweet and mild ideal for roasting.