Time to go potty for spring bulbs

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - GARDENING -

Claus Dalby is a Dan­ish gar­dener who spe­cialises in mag­nif­i­cent flo­ral and fo­liage dis­plays... in pots. I came across pic­tures of his creations on Pin­ter­est and In­sta­gram and was in­spired to try some­thing dif­fer­ent at home this year. Out­side his premises, against the rail­ings, he fash­ions ‘steps’ made from low ta­bles stacked on three lev­els. And on these ta­bles he cre­ates a the­atre of colour, chan­nelling each sea­son in dis­plays which may be all white and creams, or psy­che­delic colour. Look him up on so­cial me­dia.

But first to gar­den bulbs be­cause I can’t aban­don that work in progress. This plant­ing sea­son, I’m adding to my col­lec­tion of anemones that ap­pear each March un­der the birch trees. I’m plant­ing ‘Pink Star’, in­te­grated with the ex­ist­ing white and blue va­ri­eties. I’ll give the bulbs a soak in wa­ter the night be­fore to en­sure they are well-hy­drated, be­fore plant­ing 2in deep into the well-drained, hu­mus-rich soil be­neath the trees.

Undis­turbed, these will form clumps, then a car­pet. I’m plant­ing up some pots with early-flow­er­ing iris us­ing a gritty free-drain­ing com­post. ‘Lady Beatrix Stan­ley’ is my choice, a rich-blue va­ri­ety, smelling of vi­o­lets. PLANT­ING SEA­SON:

In April and May, in­spired by Claus, there will be mul­ti­ple pots of tulips. I’ve bought 50 of each va­ri­ety for max­i­mum im­pact. ‘Green­star’ are vase-shaped flow­ers with white petals that have a dra­matic green stripe.

This will con­trast well with ‘Black Par­rot’, a dark ma­roon tulip with frilly edges. ‘Prinses Irene’ comes with a flash of orange and then lots more pur­ple with ‘Negrita’ and the deep pur­ple-black ‘Queen of the Night’.

There’ll be lots of pink too — ‘Angelique’ is a very del­i­cate shell-like pink, a re­ally divine dou­ble late tulip, oth­er­wise known as a pe­ony tulip. ‘Sanne’ is a del­i­cate apri­cot pink. When plant­ing bulbs in pots, en­sure there are drainage holes and layer peb­bles or bits of bro­ken ter­ra­cotta at the bot­tom; bulbs do not want to be sit­ting in soggy, cold soil.

Next, put a layer of com­post about 5in deep so bulbs have ad­e­quate depth to root into. Place bulbs fairly closely to­gether, at a depth three to four times their height, so you may need to layer more com­post. Wa­ter in and, if squir­rels are a prob­lem, cover with wire mesh un­til spring. Tulips are beau­ti­ful but short-lived so I want plenty to look for­ward to af­ter them. Bring on the al­li­ums — I just love their pom-pom heads pop­ping up around the gar­den. I’m plant­ing Al­lium cristophii (‘Star of Per­sia’), which has lots of small star-shaped, metal­lic-tinged pur­ple flow­ers, and ‘Mount Ever­est’ — big and white, as the name sug­gests! For some­thing dif­fer­ent, I’ll use the Si­cil­ian honey gar­lic, Nec­taroscor­dum sicu­lum, which has small cream and pur­ple bell­shaped flow­ers, plus ‘Pur­ple Sen­sa­tion’, the sta­ple of ev­ery Chelsea Flower Show. Plant al­li­ums in full sun and well-drained soil. In June, I’m look­ing for­ward to the Madonna lily: big, white flow­ers and gor­geous fra­grance. These like to be planted shal­low so the sun can bake them. Next it’s deep-red martagon lilies (‘Claude Shride’); plant these 6in deep in rich soil, in sun/par­tial shade. Fi­nally, the pa­per­white daf­fodils are for in­doors. They take eight-to-10 weeks to flower from plant­ing so they’ll be ready for Christ­mas and make a won­der­ful gift. Plant shal­lowly in bowls with bulbs nearly touch­ing, some­where bright but cool — a con­ser­va­tory is ideal. KITTY CARE Plant­ing lilies is not a good idea if you have cats be­cause all parts of the plant are pretty toxic for them. In­stead, try other beau­ti­ful early sum­mer-flow­er­ing bulbs such as ca­mas­sia and Star of Beth­le­hem.

tulip bulbs and (right) al­lium with its de­light­ful pom-pom head

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