The Ultimate Bulb Planting Guide (and How to Deter Those Pesky Squirrels)Rachel Patey
Buy bulbs from reputable garden centres (ahem) this October for the best choice and remember to plant October for daffodils and in November for tulips.
Choose two colours, then select several different bulb types and varieties of just these two colours. The limited colour pallet will give your display a sense of calm and unity, but the many varieties of bulb will create interest.
Preparation of soil
Most hardy bulbs originate from the Mediterranean, where they enjoy warm, free draining soil. Good drainage and plenty of sunshine are key to a good display. Remove weeds and incorporate lots of compost or other organic matter when planting. For heavy soils, dig in some horticultural grit which will help deter squirrels who tend to give up digging when they hit gravel. Bulbs grown in pots need good drainage so put broken pot in the bottom and use a well-draining compost.
Where will they grow best?
Not all bulbs need full sun. For dry shade choose Anemone nemorosa (Windflower), Colchicum (Autumn Crocus), Cyclamen coum, Galanthus nivalis (Snowdrop), Hyacinthoides non-scripta (English Bluebell). For damp shade choose Eranthis (Winter Aconite), Erythronium (Dog’s-tooth Violet), Fritillaria camschatcensis (Black Sarana), Galanthus nivalis (Snowdrop), Scilla bifolia (Alpine Squill).
How should I plant them?
Bulbs should be planted two bulb widths apart, in holes two to three times as deep as the bulb itself. Planting bulbs a maximum of three times their depth can also help deter squirrels.
Bulbs are most vulnerable after planting, when the soil is easy for squirrels to dig. Chicken wire placed over the pot, or the freshly dug soil, will help deter them, remove when shoots appear.
To achieve a natural look, throw bulbs up in the air and plant them exactly where they land. Remove any papery bulb skins left on the compost as these are flashing neon ‘dig here’ signs for squirrels.
Plant the pointy end upwards with the wispy roots pointing down. If you aren’t sure which end is which then plant the bulb on its side, the stem will find its own way up.
Bulb care 101
The traditional time to start forcing hyacinths into flower is in October, so that they flower in time for Christmas. After flowering, remove the seed head and wait for the foliage to yellow and die back, then lift the bulbs, clean off any soil and store in boxes or paper bags in a cool, dry place. Alternatively leave them and plant new ones each year!
For bulbs that will flower early next year choose varieties such as the Narcissus Tete a Tete. A compact 20cm variety of daffodill with golden yellow trumpets, the Narcissus flowers in March and April. This bulb is perfect for window boxes. Plant them beneath your winter bedding for a fabulous winter through spring display.