The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Life Gardening -

Iam a bit of a bulb junkie. I find them amaz­ing and with many of them, all you need to do is add wa­ter and they per­form, rather like buy­ing a gar­den in a box. The fas­ci­na­tion and ex­cite­ment of see­ing how new stars can daz­zle and outshine clichéd old com­bi­na­tions gets the pace go­ing in my gar­den. This spring the daf­fodils, tulips and cam­masias es­pe­cially, kept their glam­our for ages, the chill­ier tem­per­a­tures pro­long­ing their flow­ers. But as with all gar­den plants, how you use them makes a vast dif­fer­ence. If you are lucky enough to visit High­grove in spring, you will see large cir­cu­lar pools of densely planted dark and light pur­ple cro­cus. Cro­cus ‘Flower Record’ with volup­tuous cups of deep­est pur­ple and Cro­cus ‘Re­mem­brance’, an heir­loom Dutch hy­brid from 1925, with rounded blooms of paler vi­o­let, around the base of the Prince of Wales’s meadow trees, are like strik­ing shad­ows en­cir­cling the trunks, caus­ing you to stop, stare and en­joy. In a shady spot all around an el­derly, spread­ing holm oak, Prince Charles has bright­ened the shade with Nar­cis­sus ‘Jenny’ and ‘Fe­bru­ary Gold’. In­ter­min­gling with pur­ple cro­cus, th­ese blend in with spec­tac­u­lar yel­low benches, which lighten the base of a nearby north side of the yew hedge. I don’t think you can ever have too many bulbs, al­though phys­i­cally shoe­horn­ing them into tight bor­ders is tricky work. Some firms, such as Gee Tee bulbs ( sell mainly a 10/11 size tulip (in­di­cat­ing the cir­cum­fer­ence of the bulb and about the di­am­e­ter of a 50p piece); oth­ers will sell larger, 11/12. Both sizes will flower the next spring and you would prob­a­bly only no­tice the dif­fer­ence in fo­liage and vigour if you put them side by side. The smaller can be bet­ter value. Gee Tee is a whole­sale com­pany, al­though with the in­ter­net it has started to sell to the pub­lic, but for smaller quan­ti­ties it has to raise its prices a bit due to their ex­tra han­dling costs. Gee Tee does not have as wide a range as the spe­cial­ists, such as Jac­ques Amand (jacque­samand­, but it of­fers stun­ning value. It is of­ten the rarer, more un­usual bulbs that are ex­pen­sive, but if you just want a hun­dred Al­lium aflatunense or A. ‘Pur­ple Sen­sa­tion’ to raise your spir­its they are great value at £20 plus VAT, many tulips such as ‘Queen of the Night’ or ‘Negrita’ are around £30 for 250. If you want to be dif­fer­ent though Al­lium ‘Spi­der’ or A. ‘Red Mo­hi­can’ (with bordeaux red heads and tufted tops) are both ex­cel­lent and stun­ning, Chris­tine Skelmersdale from Broadleigh Bulbs (broadleigh­ points out that the deeper a bulb goes the bet­ter, as they en­dure fewer tem­per­a­ture swings and rain down­pours. The cli­mate is more equable at deeper lev­els, so they grow bet­ter and slower and are less likely to split into small bulbs. The bulb that flow­ers dies af­ter flow­er­ing but pro­duces smaller bulbs. If it pro­duces just one or two (in­stead of five or so) they are more likely to flower the next year as they are larger. They also need a dry, dor­mant sum­mer to ini­ti­ate a flower the fol­low­ing year, so if you have ap­plied ir­ri­ga­tion then they are un­likely to flower. In one of Chris­tine’s bor­ders ‘Olympic Flame’, ‘Puris­sima’, ‘Groen­land’ and ‘Spring Green’ have per­formed well for some years, only grad­u­ally get­ting smaller. They were all planted 8in deep and are shel­tered by her­ba­ceous peren­ni­als. She does not ir­ri­gate, other bulbs she tops up and “most oth­ers do two sea­sons”. In other ar­eas for dis­play – her parterre has 300 ‘White Tri­umpha­tor’ and Tele­graph Gar­den­ing read­ers can buy 100 al­lium bulbs for only £19.99 (TCA11846). Col­lec­tion in­cludes 16 aflatunense, 10 ‘Pur­ple Sen­sa­tion’, 24 sphae­ro­cephalon, and 50 caeruleum. Dis­patched from Oc­to­ber. Sub­ject to avail­abil­ity. Call 0844 573 6015 for credit/debit card or­ders quot­ing ref TET50 or avail­able online at gar­den­shop.tele­ of­fers. De­liv­ery to all UK ad­dresses only.

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