Spring is bulb time, right? Not entirely – autumn and winter bulbs are as glorious and their blooms last longer, too, writes Jackie French.
Winter needs the brightness of bulbs – spring has glory enough – so plant now if you want to have a blooming beautiful garden this winter. Your bulbs will turn your garden from dull to delight. And when summer comes, the bulbs’ leaves will sensibly die down, so they spring up again and continue to multiply for years to come. Here are my favourite winter bulbs.
Crocus If you plant the right crocus varieties, you’ll have blooms from autumn through winter. Plant lots, about 15cm deep. They are best planted in a sheltered spot away from harsh winds, or under deciduous or lightly foliaged trees where the delicate leaves won’t be damaged by rain. You’ll find innumerable species and varieties to choose from.
Saffron crocus These give the long red stamens that are the expensive cooking spice. I grow them for their giant autumn flowers, as our garden is a little too shady for a good crop of stamens.
Colchicum These bulbs are often mistakenly known as crocus, but have several flowers from each stem rather than a single flower per stalk. They are stunning in big drifts under deciduous trees – they tolerate full sun or dappled shade. The bulbs need a fairly dry January and February, so avoid planting in humid areas.
Fritillaria Tiny bell-shaped flowers dangle from 30cm stems. The flowers range from dusky pink through mauve to deep purple. They suit sun or light shade. A massed display is stunning.
Narcissus Choose early varieties of daffodils and jonquils and they will
flower from midwinter. Winter bloomers are for cold, cool and temperate areas only. Plant under deciduous trees or in full sun.
Nerines These are winter stunners, with big blooms on strong stems. Every winter, I wish I had planted at least 10 times as many, as they multiply slowly. Choose autumnblooming as well as winterflowering varieties such as Winter Cheer for a continuous display of pinks, scarlet, red and white. They need full sun in summer.
Snowdrops These cold-loving bulbs need to be planted in drifts across the garden for best effect. You can buy scented, single and double species, as well as many varieties. Plant lots of them. In the right place, they will multiply. If they don’t reappear the following year, replant or choose a bulb that tolerates more heat.
Snowflakes A sturdier plant than snowdrops, but what these lack in refinement and delicacy, they make up for in vigour and tolerance of hot, dry conditions. Six white petals are evenly spaced, with a green spot at the end of each.