Alys Fowler

Bulbs for spring g

The Guardian - Weekend - - News -

I al­ways dreamed of cre­at­ing a gar­den li­brary, a small room to sit and read in, nes­tled at the bot­tom of the gar­den. I’ve never re­alised this dream, be­cause it would re­quire cut­ting down a mag­no­lia and de­spite my am­biva­lent feel­ings for it, I can’t jus­tify tak­ing it down for a build­ing. Ev­ery year it re­joices at this and spreads its shade a lit­tle fur­ther.

So in­stead, this au­tumn I am go­ing to em­brace the bot­tom of the gar­den for what it is – a tiny slice of a wood­land – and plant all sorts of lovely wood­land things; by the time I have fin­ished it will be a place to sit and read, though not in the rain.

Au­tumn is the time to plant spring bulbs, the main­stay of a wood­land gar­den. I want to in­dulge in truly gor­geous things. I have plenty of time for daf­fodils and tulips, but in this cor­ner, I want a bit of magic, some­thing to draw you all the way to the bot­tom. Top of my list are dog’s tooth vi­o­lets, ery­thro­nium. Their com­mon name refers to the shape of the bulbs, which are eas­ily dam­aged and of­ten break if dis­turbed, so they have to be har­vested by hand. On top of this they don’t like dry­ing out, so need to be sent in the post damply packed or pur­chased as a liv­ing plant in a pot. All of which puts the price up; ex­pect to pay be­tween £3 and £5 a bulb.

Still they are worth it for their beau­ti­ful, nod­ding star-shaped flow­ers with curved petals, like a cor­nette, and de­light­ful mar­bled fo­liage. Ery­thro­ni­ums come from tem­per­ate parts in the north­ern hemi­sphere and are bro­ken down into Eurasian and North Amer­i­can species. Some are picky about their spots, oth­ers much eas­ier go­ing.

E. cal­i­for­nicum is one of the eas­ier species to grow, and has white flow­ers and a yel­low cen­tre. The cul­ti­var ‘White Beauty’ (pic­tured top) is all re­fined ele­gance. An­other de­light­ful white flow­er­ing one is the Euro­pean, E. dens-ca­nis ‘Snowflake’ (cen­tre), which spreads well over time.

Per­haps the eas­i­est to get hold of is E. ‘Pagoda’ (left), a vig­or­ous hy­brid with lemon-yel­low flow­ers over bronze fo­liage. The ra­tio of leaf to flower is not as el­e­gant as some species, but it will of­fer trou­ble-free grow­ing if you want to make a drift.

Ery­thro­ni­ums flower from Fe­bru­ary to April, dy­ing down by June, so they need to be grown un­der de­cid­u­ous trees that leaf out just as they are putting the last of their re­serves into their bulbs. They must have sum­mer shade and like fer­tile, hu­mus­rich soil that is nei­ther too wet nor too dry. Leaf mould is their manna and they hate be­ing moved, so wait three years at least be­fore split­ting or trans­plant­ing

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.