Bi­en­ni­als for bed­ding

The Daily Telegraph - Gardening - - Design With Bulbs -

For a spring show that’s as good as it can pos­si­bly be, don’t re­strict your­self to bulbs. Make colour com­bi­na­tions with spring bed­ding. Wall­flow­ers are a tra­di­tional favourite for un­der­plant­ing tulips and daf­fodils and can look mar­vel­lous. Keep the colour of wall­flower the same, don’t use a mix, and find a range of bulbs to pick out – or pur­posely con­trast with – the colours on one wall­flower stem.

For har­mony, plant the wall­flower ‘White Dame’ with tulip ‘Spring Green’ grow­ing through it, or at the other end of the tonal scale, com­bine the dark wall­flower ‘Blood Red’ with the sim­i­lar coloured tulip ‘Jan Reus’. If you pre­fer the idea of con­trast to har­mony, drop an or­ange tulip such as ‘Bal­le­rina’, or the su­per-early ‘Or­ange Em­peror’ through wall­flower ‘Blood Red’, or have the pink wall­flower ‘Gi­ant Pink’ as your base and the or­ange and coral tulip ‘An­nie Schilder’ grow­ing with it (see left).

You can buy wall­flow­ers easily at this time of year. Get them in as quickly as pos­si­ble so their roots set­tle in well be­fore the truly cold, wet weather sets in. Oth­er­wise, you end up with wimpy plants, which cre­ate a splotchy look, rather than merg­ing into a proper car­pet.

Hon­esty is another good bi­en­nial to plant with spring bulbs. It’s hard to beat the very long-flow­er­ing tulip ‘Bal­le­rina’ backed by a drift of pur­ple hon­esty, and the white hon­esty (Lu­naria an­nua ‘Alba’) is good with the pale par­rot tulip ‘Green Wave’ and the green-fleshed ‘Spring Green’. Put an­nu­als to work This spring, we also had great suc­cess with some au­tumn-sown hardy an­nu­als as bulb part­ners. In the south, we can usu­ally get away with over­win­ter­ing va­ri­eties such as Cerinthe ma­jor ‘Pur­puras­cens’ out­side in the gar­den. This looks beau­ti­ful with large-flow­ered Anemone coro­naria ‘Vi­nato Mis­tral’ and ‘Blue Mis­tral’ (see be­low). The feath­ery fo­liage of Nigella dam­a­s­cena and ‘Black Par­rot’ tulips also work well to­gether. In the north, I’d still use these com­bi­na­tions, but sow the hardy an­nu­als in­side and keep them there un­til spring, or sow in mid-Fe­bru­ary and plant out a month later.

My latest dis­cov­ery is the tall, sin­gle colour va­ri­eties of the toad­flax fam­ily, the linar­ias, which are ex­cel­lent in the gar­den with hy­acinths, Anemone coro­naria and tulips. We had Li­naria maroc­cana ‘Lu­cila Azure’ grow­ing with cerinthe and the blue hy­acinth ‘Peter Stuyvesant’. It looked good and made a great ar­range­ment with the odd stem of Helle­borus cor­si­cus.

Hardy an­nu­als don’t have to be flow­ery. Some of the best com­bi­na­tions are mixes of bulbs with sal­ads. Any of the hardy win­ter let­tuce, such as ‘Green Salad Bowl’, cos ‘Freck­les’ or the dark-leaved ‘Solix’,


Shade lover: tulips and Solomon’s seal

An­nual mix: anemones with cerinthe

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