Get those bulbs in
Start planting now to ensure a colourful floral display in the spring, say the experts at Monkton Elm Garden Centre
Bulbs are one of the cheapest ways of filling your garden with colour. Plant some spring flowering varieties now and you will be rewarded with a display lasting weeks. There will still be a good choice available in garden centres.
January sees the first snowdrops making their tentative way through the soil, together with tiny winter aconites, their darling bright yellow flowers surrounded by a ruff of green leaves. They are swiftly followed by early narcissi, such as ‘February Gold’, a Narcissus cyclamineus. Like cyclamen, the petals are swept back. It’s been around a long time, for good reason. It naturalises well and is not too tall, around 30cm, so it won’t be spoiled in poor weather.
Early spring and the garden really gets going. As plants begin to wake up from their winter dormancy, the fresh foliage enhances bulb displays perfectly.
At the front of the border, miniature iris such as ‘Katherine Hodgkin’ appear, then crocus; small species first (try Crocus sieberi ‘Tricolour’ – a pretty lilac and apricot colour) followed by the giant
Dutch varieties. Anemone blanda, the wind flower, carpets the ground with blue pink and white amongst deciduous trees. Daffodils and narcissi are at their best now. If you fancy a traditional yellow daffodil, go for ‘Dutch Master’ which reaches around 45cm.
Tulips also begin in March, although generally they tend to be April/May flowerers. Plant in groups of at least six or in drifts through herbaceous perennials, for a spectacular display. A favourite is ‘Queen of Night’ – an almost black flower held on tall but strong stems. It looks incredible paired with a bright orange tulip such as ‘Orange Princess’.
Many bulbs like sun and prefer good drainage to perform at their best, and this can be achieved by adding horticultural grit to the bottom of the planting hole. Plant deeply; three to four times the depth of the bulb will give best results, and also deter squirrels. They have a voracious appetite for tulips and crocus, but will also disturb narcissus, although they won’t eat them.
Planting spring flowering bulbs now is ideal, but delay tulip planting until next month as cold soil deters virus and disease that they can be susceptible to. Don’t forget to label as it’s easy to forget where they are. We recommend wooden labels as they are less conspicuous.
If you have chosen special, unusual bulbs, pot them up in terracotta pots in gritty compost and keep close to the house so you can appreciate their beauty up close and personal.
To promote flowering next year, feed bulbs with a high potash food (tomato food is perfect) from flowering until the leaves die back naturally.