CATCH MY DRIFTAli Barwani
In the era of the Snowflake, prejudice is seen as something evil. But gardening prejudices are often useful. They can help you develop your own style. Some plants, I simply can’t get along with. The idea of growing African marigolds and chrysanthemums just seems wrong to me.
However, that said, sometimes it is good to have our prejudices challenged. I used to think of spring bulbs as being a tad boring. This grew from seeing neglected front gardens overrun with weedy grape hyacinths growing through cracked concrete, and dishevelled daffodils planted in miserly ones and twos.
Then I started making regular spring visits with my friend Chris to a nearby garden, Myddelton House Gardens in outer North London. This was formerly the home of the garden writer, horticulturist and authority on bulbs Edward A Bowles, otherwise known as the ‘Crocus King’. To my surprise their use of bulbs was pretty amazing. Seeing a diverse range of bulbs grown in inventive ways freed my mind of the old association with unloved front gardens.
More recently, as we have been putting out our fresh stocks of flowering bulbs, I have been inspired by the dazzling diversity on offer. Having conquered my prejudice I am now fizzing with excitement about new planting possibilities. Spring is going to be party season in my garden.
12 creative ways with bulbs:
- Go Natural:
Scatter handfuls of bulbs over your lawn and plant them where they fall. This works well with Narcissus, English bluebells, snowdrops, snakehead fritillaries and crocuses. You can do this on a small lawn with tiny types such as species crocuses, or on a grand scale with daffodils and tulips.
If you are creating an informal wildflower meadow, then planting drifts of that Chelsea Flower Show favourite camassia (3 Leichtlinii caerulia bulbs £3.99) is for you.
- Stand Out:
Plant vivid colours in clusters. Would a burst of brightness add interest to a dull part of your garden? Think of the views from your windows, and plant your bulbs where you will see them.
If you want a stunning focal point, plant 3 or 5 exotics in a group. Our tall growing Fritilllaria imperialis Lutea (yellow) and Rubra (red) are only
£4.99 a bulb, and each resembles a small palm trees decked with garlands of bell-like flowers.
Fritilllaria imperialis Lutea Fritilllaria imperialis Rubra
- Get on-trend:
This year’s UK daffodil of the year is ‘Binkie’, with a cup that matures from Lemon to white. (£6.99 for 15) and the striking ivory and deep purple Rembrandt type tulip ‘Flaming Flag’ is the Bulb of the Year (£6.99 for 20). By planting these varieties you will bring fashion and freshness to your gardening.
- Be Formal:
Use bulbs to edge your pathways. A fringe of crocuses in front of a line of Chionodoxa (available in pink, white or blue) will put a spring in your step each morning.
The Victorians planted beds of bulbs in bold patterns resembling oriental rugs. This type of display is temporary and the bulbs are removed after they have finished flowering and the leaves have withered so that the ground can be replanted with spring bedding. Tulips can be grown with wallflowers and forget-me-nots to achieve the classic carpet bedding look – the colour combinations are up to you.
Chionodoxa Luciliae Chionodoxa Alba
- Be inventive:
By adding multicoloured stripes of flowers to your lawn, or simply casting a sinuous river of blue using fragrant Muscari azureum (15 for £2.99).
- Grow a bouquet:
Imagine a beautiful bunch of spring flowers sitting in a vase. You can create this in your garden with a circular planting of bulbs. Put the tallest flowering bulbs in the centre of the circle at the deepest level, and then surround them with smaller growing forms going outwards and upwards. You could do 3 or more concentric rings going out from tulips and daffodils in the centre out to scillas and crocuses.
Bulbs are great mixers. If you have a white-barked birch tree, under-plant this with the white flowered Narcissus ‘Thalia’ or pale wood anemones.
Japanese maples can be complimented with early winter aconites (Eranthis cilicica, £2.99 for six corms).
Autumn flowering cyclamens are great for establishing in dry soil under trees and along the base of hedges. Their delicate looking flowers appear before the leaves; their stunning shiny foliage is dark green with zoned patterns of grey on top, and oxblood red beneath.
- Design with scent:
Many spring bulbs are strongly fragranced to attract the early pollinators such as bumblebees and solitary bees. Our most fragrant flowering bulbs are marked ‘ideal for garden fragrance’ on their packaging. By combining these varieties you can create an olfactory treat every time you step out on your balcony or into the garden.
- Go off-piste:
The big four – daffodils, tulips, crocuses and hyacinths dominate UK bulb sales. But at Capital Gardens we stock a much wider range. You can find inspiration for your shady corner with the unusual Erythronium (dog’s tooth violet), or peruse our extensive selection of dramatic Alliums.
XL packs of 15 Allium christophii are great value at £6.99, and each bulb can produce a flower head up to 20 cm across. Now is the ideal time to plant alliums, which flower May to June, as they need to put out their roots in autumn to feed the developing flowers in spring.
- Bee kind:
My colleague Sadiye has been choosing bee friendly bulbs for her garden. If you want to do this, look for the ‘RHS Plants for pollinators’ symbol on the packaging. These bulbs have been selected to help tackle the decline in pollinator numbers by providing plentiful nectar and pollen.
- Don’t Forget Autumn:
You may be familiar with daffodils and crocuses in spring, but the delights of autumn flowering bulbs are less well known. Autumn bulbs are just as beautiful and exciting, with the additional benefit of filling your beds and containers with fresh flowers as the rest of the garden is going to sleep. Autumn flowering bulbs include colchicums, sterbergias, autumn crocuses, nerines, and cyclamen. And now is the time to buy and plant them.
- Go potty:
Growing bulbs in containers has many benefits, such as portability, and space saving. Bulbs are ideal subjects for container growing, both indoors and out. In fact there’s so much to say about the possibilities of pots that I am going to return to them in the next blog.
Bulbs are easy to grow. Simply pop them into the ground, or in pots, at the depth indicated on the packet (usually 3 times the height of the bulb) and wait for the colourful show to start.
Autumn flowering bulbs give colour from September to October. Spring flowering bulbs bloom from February to May.
Act now for beautiful bulbs. Now is the time to visit us and choose your bulbs, and get planting.
Thank you to Taylor Bulbs for providing the images – https://taylors-bulbs.com
Myddelton House Gardens, Bulls Cross, Enfield, EN2 9HG
Written by Ali Barwani