Bulbsreally are a bright idea
If you want a stunning wash of colour in spring, then now’s the time to get planting
Last spring I visited the bulb gardens of Keukenhof in Holland. The place was crammed with people and full of colour. I would imagine the gardens aren’t to everyone’s taste – acre after acre of vibrant colours set out in broad strokes sweeping around trees, down slopes and reflected in still water. But I was seduced by the pure joy of the place and mesmerised by the fact that virtually all these colours came from bulbs.
They are amazing little packages of hope with a flower fully formed inside its own envelope. As autumn arrives and the soil is still warm, it is time to start planning, buying and planting these little marvels. I’ve been browsing the catalogues and here’s my pick of the best for you.
Bloms have been in the gardening trade for more than 150 years since Walter Blom started his apprenticeship in the bulb industry in Holland back in 1850.
This year they won their 66th Gold Medal at the Chelsea Flower Show, so you can be sure of top- quality produce from here.
Their speciality is hyacinths – if you like intense colours, look out for ‘ Dark Dimension’ with blooms so purple they’re nearly black, and ‘ Woodstock’ with rich wine purple bells. They also have some wonderful fritillaria species such as ‘ Adiyaman’ – a magnificent border plant growing to 90cm in height, producing large numbers of dark plum purple bell- shaped flowers in April and May ( blomsbulbs. com, 01234 709099).
Sarah Raven’s passion is for cut flowers, and her collection of bulbs reflect her delight in blossoms that look wonderful in vases and will last. She has some very pretty Ranunculus such as ‘ Pauline Pink’ in an exquisite shade of shell pink and ‘ Pauline Chocolate’ which is a luscious deep red.
The corms are sometimes referred to as claws due to their appearance – plant them in autumn or spring with their ‘ fingers’ facing downwards ( sarahraven. com, 0345 092 0283).
Jacques Amand is always a good hunting ground for unusual bulbs, including rare historical tulips ( jacquesamandintl. com, 020 8420 7110).
There’s a very exuberant double late tulip called Vaya Con Dios, which starts life as mainly yellow, gaining apricot, orange and red hues as it matures. ‘ Victoria’s Secret’ has deep purplish blue flowers with a touch of lavender and violet running through it, and the centre of the flower is an attractive royal blue.
I love parrot tulips with their fringed edges. ‘ Parrot Sweet’ has bright pink flowers suffused with white and greenish yellow which flowers in May.
‘ Copper Image’ is also delightful with large double flowers of a copper colour flushed with salmon, also flowering in May.
No bulb planting session is complete without daffodils. J Parkers has a great bundle of orchid- type daffs – this is where the flower is split into segments giving it an orchid appearance. ‘ Lemon Beauty’ is very striking – its ivory white blooms have a star- shaped lemon- yellow centre and the flowers of ‘ Mondragon’ are a rich egg yolk colour ( jparkers. co. uk, 0161 848 1100).
So whether you have pots and containers, borders or areas of grass, pop in a few parcels of bulbs and give yourself a nice surprise next spring.
A few tips to remember – plant bulbs as soon as you get them, with the exception of tulips which should be planted in November.
Generally you place them two to three times their own size deep in soil – a bit deeper in free- draining soil that tends to dry out in summer.
Place them with their shoot facing upwards – but don’t worry if you can’t figure it out, the bulb will still grow towards the light.
Finally, throw in a little bit of slowrelease fertiliser to help it on its way. Good luck!