Every gardener loves to see the bulbs appearing on the shelves of the garden centres ready for autumn planting and a fabulous spring show. Hannah Stephenson makes sure you are ahead of
be afraid of planting big, bold bulbs en masse in bigger pots because, provided they are in a fairly sheltered spot away from strong winds, they should give you a stunning display. Crown imperials look impressive planted in groups of three in large metal containers in a contemporary setting, alongside trimmed box and other architectural plants, while narcissi with stout stems, such as Bridal Crown, will provide long-lasting blooms and won’t topple over in cooler situations. Many gardeners opt for layering bulbs for a continuous display throughout spring. This is done by planting a variety of bulbs at different depths in the pot. For instance, in a large container insert larger bulbs such as tulips, covering them in compost, then add another layer of medium-sized bulbs such as dwarf narcissi and cover these, then finally add small bulbs such as crocuses or snowdrops and top them with a final layer of compost. The bulbs nearer the top will flower first, then as they die down they will be replaced by the medium bulbs, which will in turn be replaced by the larger bulbs later in the season. Recipes might include Scilla siberica on the top layer, Narcissus Tete a Tete in the middle layer and Tulipa Golden Apeldoorn on the bottom layer, but there are many other possibilities. When planting bulbs, place crocks in the bottom of the pot, add 15-20cm of multipurpose compost with added John Innes or bulb fibre and begin your layering, nestling late-flowering bulbs into the surface of the compost and adding compost just to cover the bulbs or leave the tips showing. If you leave pots outside in the winter, don’t let them become sodden. Stand the pots on feet to allow the moisture to drain through. However, don’t let the pots dry out either or it will lead to stunted growth and flowers which wilt quickly. It’s a good bet to put the pots by the house in winter, moving them to expose them to the elements from February onwards, so they don’t dry out. Once the bulbs are in flower, water them every other day.