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span spring and summer with some, such as A. sphaerocep­halon, flowering in July but the earliest, such as ‘Purple Sensation’, start to appear at the end of April. ‘Purple Sensation’ is one of the best early alliums and has the richness of colour that is an ideal foil for the intense greens of new foliage and the brilliant colours of tulips. October is the ideal time to plant them.


( Hyacinthoi­des nonscripta) are one of the most evocative displays in the British countrysid­e, forming a blue sheet in the dappled light beneath trees. They become invasive in a border so should only be planted in grass, preferably in the shade of deciduous trees and shrubs. Spanish bluebells, Hyacinthoi­des hispanic, are coarser and even more invasive, so should not be introduced into any garden unless they are in a container.


flower in late May, with either white or mauve/blue spikes of flower. They are from damp meadows in North America and like moist, rich soil so are ideal for the side of a pond. They will tolerate light shade but are best in full sun.

Imperial fritillari­es

stand about 1m (3ft) tall on curiously flattened thick chocolate stems. The bright orange and yellow flowers open in April and hang beneath a punk-haired topknot of leaf. The huge bulbs should be planted deep in well-drained soil and set on their side to avoid rotting. They are members of the lily family and the only plant in Britain to be pollinated by birds – specifical­ly blue tits, which stick their heads in the flowers to sip the nectar inside and get dusted with pollen.

Summer snowflakes

(Leucojum aestivum) flower in May in my garden. They have snowdrop-like drooping bells of white flower rimmed with green and carried on tall leafless stems. They are happiest in fairly moist soil and light shade and the bulbs can be planted into areas of damp grassland. They are long-lived perennials that can be divided in autumn or after flowering in spring.

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