If you haven't already, then October is the time to think about planting spring flowering bulbs!
Everyone has a favourite: what’s yours? Snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils or tulips? They come in a huge range of colours and sizes, and are an easy way to add successional interest to your garden in the early part of the year, when other plants haven’t quite got going yet. Here’s my calendar of colour using bulbs:
January – snowdrops Does anyone not like a snowdrop? When I think of snowdrops, I picture them carpeting the path at Godstone Church, under the yew trees. Once happy, they spread themselves to form clumps. Plant them in groups, in shady spots, to get a natural look.
February – Iris reticulata A teeny-tiny iris that comes in whites, purples and amazing blue colours. This little iris likes well-drained soil and does just as well at the front of a flower border or in a pot. In fact, start them off in pots indoors and they can flower even earlier. They make a great Xmas present in a pot.
March – daffodils There is a huge range of daffodils and, I say, choose the ones you like. I prefer the smaller miniature versions as they tend to be a little bit neater once the flowers have gone. Buy a multi-pack for a mixture of bulbs of different types, and plant in groups. There is nothing sadder than one daffodil on its own!
April – tulips The tulips of spring 2021 were incredible. They flowered for a whole fortnight longer than usual because of the cold weather. They are a glamorous flower, and come in a variety of shapes and colours. Choose two or three that you really like and plant them in groups, to give an elegant, refined display. Check the labels for when they flower, so you can try to get different varieties either flowering together, or one after the other, to give you a longer flush of interest.
May – alliums Alliums are still en vogue, and popular at the spring flower shows. My advice would be to not go too large: the XL flower heads sometimes need support, especially in bad weather. So, if you want the traditional tall purple lollipops, I’d stick with an allium like ’Globemaster’ or ‘Purple Sensation’. Add in the pear-shaped flowers of Allium sphaerocephalon which flowers a little later than the lollipops ,and you’ll increase the allium season.
June – camassia I remember seeing a meadow of these at RHS Wisley a couple of years ago and being entranced by their blue spires. Although delicate-looking, they don’t mind damp, dry, sunny or shady positions but, once happy, they create big clumps, so perhaps in the middle of a border would be best, rather than in a small space.
Spring bulbs can be planted up until November, and will be in the shops now. Don't hesitate to buy them when you see them, however, as I’ve been warned of a bulb shortage this year, due to Covid/Brexit/high demand. Buy and plant them now: you won’t regret it! They add so much to a garden and are so, so easy to plant.
Plant in groups of threes, fives or sevens, depending on size. Groups have a bigger impact and odd numbers help make them look more natural.
As a rule of thumb, plant the bulb three times as deep as it is tall. So, if a bulb is 10cm tall, plant it 30cm deep.
And my favourites? Snowdrops and grape hyacinth: bulbs that are perfect for any wandering fairies to appreciate!
Renée is a gardener and designer. She recently won the Muddy Stiletto Award for Best Garden Designer in Surrey, and believes there are fairies at the bottom of the garden. You can read more about her and her work at www.thegirlwhogardens.co.uk