Where to plant bulbs
Bulbs in flowerbeds
When considering what to buy, remember there is a bulb to suit every need. Some can be used to complement existing plants or shrubs and others can be used for filling gaps or as ground cover. Displays can be made up from a range of heights, colours and flowering times, or simply dedicated to one type planted en masse; something like the Viridiflora Tulip ‘Spring Green’ creates a truly stunning effect.
Big, tall plants like Eremurus ‘Cleopatra’ or Allium ‘Globemaster’ make a good backdrop, while medium-high varieties such as Camassia Leictlinii and Allium Christophii are good flowerbed fillers.
Tulips will work anywhere you like, depending on their eventual heights. Tall varieties like Darwin Hybrid, Parrot or Triumph will look quite majestic when planted at the back or close to the centre of a flowerbed, while the shorter Kaufmanniana or Greigii types will sit quite happily down at the front.
Bulbs in pots and containers
As with flowerbeds, consider the height your plants will eventually reach when using containers. Tulips look great in pots but anything taller than a typical Fosteriana or Single Early variety may be prone to blowing over if the pot is not particularly large.
Children love potting bulbs. Crocus and Specie Iris are reliable and give nice early results for those not so blessed in the patience department! Miniature Daffodils like ‘Tête á Tête’ also do well in pots and their flowering time often coincides with Easter and Mothering Sunday, making them perfect gifts from budding horticulturalists.
Bulb fibre – traditionally made of peat, lime, crushed shell and charcoal – can be bought from most garden centres but it isn’t strictly necessary when potting up bulbs. John Innes No.2 is a good choice as a potting medium but ordinary potting compost, mixed with a generous handful of horticultural grit or sharp sand, will do just fine.
When potting bulbs, plenty of drainage is key, so be sure to add some broken crock to the bottom of the pot to prevent your bulbs becoming waterlogged.
Remember that pots and containers are prone to freezing in very cold winters, and daffodils will not tolerate being frozen solid for prolonged periods.
Bulbs in lawns
Some bulbs work very well when planted in a lawn but it is important to consider when the lawn will get its first cut of the year. The foliage on your chosen bulbs needs to have died right back before cutting because the goodness has to return to the bulb to ensure good growth the next year. For the same reason, do not tie up or knot the foliage as this cuts off the food supply.
Small, early types are the best ones to go for. Galanthus (Snowdrop) and Eranthis (Winter Aconite) are ideal; not only do they look great in a lawn, but they will have died back enough to start grass cutting. Crocus, Miniature Daffodils and Specie Iris can also work well in lawns, either as a mixture or in great carpets of colour. We have even sold Crocus to businesses wishing to plant out their company logo on their front lawn!
Whichever way you do it, planting bulbs in a lawn is simple. For a natural effect, scatter the bulbs by hand and plant them where they land using a dibber or trowel. Small bulbs like Crocus and Snowdrops can be planted approximately two inches deep. Alternatively, peel back sections of turf using a spade, place the bulbs beneath and lay the turf back down.
Bulbs can easily be introduced into a new lawn, by planting in the bare soil before seeding or by setting on prepared ground beneath any turf that is to be laid. But remember to check the bulbs are in season when planning.
Bulbs in long grass
We could give you an almost endless list of bulbs that can be planted in long grass! Daffodils are perfect because they need no attention when planted but there are many other types to consider for prolonging the flowering season.
Short, early types such as Chionodoxa, Muscari and Puschkinia are all very inexpensive and will look good before the grass gets too tall.
In mid-spring, Erythronium, Fritillaria, Ornithogalum and Bluebells all look superb and create a stunning meadow effect.
As the grass grows longer in summer, taller, later flowering varieties such as Alliums, Camassia and Gladiolus Byzantinus will complete the look.
And for the autumn, when the grass is no longer actively growing, try Colchicum, Cyclamen and Sternbergia. These are all at their best when other garden and meadow plants have reached the end of their cycle.
There is no plant in the world more suitable for formal planting than the Tulip (although Buxus is also a contender for this title, and these two are often seen planted side by side in the most prestigious of gardens). Straight rows, uniform heights and large blocks of matching or contrasting colours are good starting points when trying to achieve a formal look.
Alliums are another favourite for formal planting. With their architectural appearance, they can be equally spaced or clumped together for great effect.
‘Naturalising’ refers to planting an area and then leaving to its own devices to achieve a natural effect. Plants in a naturalised area need to perform year after year with little or no maintenance, and have got to represent good value, particularly when covering a large area.
At the top of any list for naturalising bulbs, you would find Snowdrops, Bluebells and, of course, Daffodils. These will all thrive once settled into their new environment. Other popular choices include Eranthis (Winter Aconite), Fritillaria Meleagris (Snake’s Head Lily) and Erythronium (Dog’s Tooth Violet).
Many of our bulbs will bloom year after year, increasing in numbers and vigour as time goes by. You’ll see many varieties that wouldn’t look out of place in a meadow or woodland, on a grass verge or even a riverbank – why not try naturalising an area of your garden to get the effect?
Bulbs in the shade
We wouldn’t say that any bulb would thrive in full shade. However, there are lots that will perform brilliantly when planted beneath deciduous trees because they are early enough to get going before tree canopies come into full leaf. Early Flowering Daffodils, Crocus, Galanthus and Eranthis are all perfect for this.
When fresh, green leaves have appeared on the trees, Hyacinthoides Non-Scripta (English Bluebell), Erythronium and Anemone Nemorosa (Wood Anemone) all love dappled shade.