Using Bulbs in your Garden Design
Now is the Time to plant Bulbs!
Nothing heralds Spring with greater brass band fanfare than bulbs. Just when you thought the world would never again turn to the sunnier side of the universe out come the bulbs.
Most try to get up and out into the light before the trees have come into leaf so you can make maximum advantage of this by trying to plant bulbs in combination with other ones.
This year why not be a bit bolder in your choice of bulbs and the amount you plant.
Below are some tips on what and where to plant this month.
So many of us love Alliums it is worth beginning with these. Alliums like good drainage and if you really want them to survive dig a large clump of clay, for example one metre square by 40cm deep, and replace with well conditioned soil. Plant your Alliums deep as their long stem growth under the soil to reach the surface will produce stronger more wind tolerant stems. For the classic purple ball effect Allium Purple Sensations and white Mount Everest are popular. For the enormous wow factor, Allium christofii have fantastic architectural heads. A more casual effect can be achieved by the delicate and hardy drumstick Alliums. Most people leave the Allium heads long after the purple, red and whites balls have faded as their bright white strong forms look great amongst other planting schemes and even though the winter.
Look around and see if you have any shady areas under trees. Bulbs love this space as it is free from footfall, the trees are not yet into leaf so there is plenty of light and there is reduced chance of being waterlogged.
Choose natural colonizers like Daffodils, Crocus, English Bluebells, Snowdrops and Grape Miscari. They will multiply year upon year and make the shady area the great focal point of Spring’s arrival. Also think about large swathes of Anemone blanda as it will spread and be with you forever.
It is not fashionable these days but why not plant up a large area of your lawn with Crocuses. They will delight you when they push up through the grass and in the 70’s colour scheme of purples, whites and yellows and they are easily mown over once they have wilted away. You could also collect saffron which are the red stamens inside the flower!
You can plant Daffodil February Gold in your lawn. Grab handfuls, close your eyes and throw them onto your lawn. Where they fall, that’s where you plant them. They will look more naturalised when they have this random pattern. Think about having on average 5 per square metre though some square metres will have none while others be crammed full.
If you have a meadow section of your garden Fritillaria meleagris is an endangered species in Europe so why not plant these chequerboard patterned beauties amongst your daffodils.
Now is the time to cram your pots with tulips. Tulips are a living meditation on impermanence as most don’t come back the following year- so a few weeks of display and that’s it. But what a way to awaken colour in your garden. If you have a very sheltered and hot spot try Freesia- their scent will intoxicate you. Try Scilla as well.
Plant in big groups
Don’t be tempted to buy 5 of these and 6 of those. If you want maximum impact buy in bulk online. It is cheaper and the different between 20 daffodils and 200 creates a completely different effect. Even in big pots go for 12-15 tulips rather than a few. And if you are planting them in borders it is better to have three clumps of 15 than 45 bulbs dotted about the place looking lonely.
Go for the unusual
Try Frittilaria Crown Imperials, the mad looked Allium ‘Hair’, Narcissi ‘Rip Van Winkle’ or Tulipa ‘Wow’ and again plant in a couple of nice big clumps, maybe on both sides of your doorway so you enjoy them many times a day. You can also try the giant Snowdrop Leucojuim in a quite corner of the garden.
Plant in amongst other plants
You can plant your bulbs in amongst evergreen ground cover which doubles the use of the space and also hides the foliage once the bulbs have finished.
Try planting in amongst an area of Perriwinkle, Ajuga, Violets or even Ivy.
Try these combinations
Agapanthas and Wild Garlic, large pale pink Hyacinths with the pale blue of Miscarri Baby’s Breath, Tete-a-Tete Narcissi with Fritillaria.
Also look at the maximum and minimum heights of your borders and position accordingly. eg Allium altissima at 1.5 m and Allium Christophii at 35cm
Make a column where you make sure you have bulbs coming up all the way through the year as if they are passing the baton to each other. For example you can buy Very Early, Early, Mid and Late flowering Tulips and Daffodils. Also you can factor in the corm families as well with Agapanths, Cannas and Irises as well as Dahlias.
There are also Crinums for the end of summer, bright pink Nerines and Cyclamen hederifolium for Autumn as well as autumn flowering Colchicums with their ghostly translucent hue.
The packet that the bulbs arrive in will normally tell you the depth and spacing for planting up.
If you are planting in clumps dig a whole section of the bed up of about 40cm in diameter rather than try to plant them individually.
Bulbs as a rule need very well drained soil so if you are in a lot of clay really prepare the soil well with grit and organic improver and even then you will have to experiment with what survives.
If you have planted in pots make sure they don’t dry out which is possible if we have a dry Autumn or Winter.
Bulbs like a mulch feed whether in pots or in the open ground so this can done now after you have planted them.
If you deadhead the old flowers once they have finished then you will stop the plant having to produce seeds which can weaken it. Most people though like to leave the old seedheads of Alliums to dry out as they look very sculptural over the Summer and Autumn.
Lastly if you leave the foliage to die back naturally then more of the energy of the plant can return to the bulb increasing its health.
Writing articles obviously entails submitting them early. If the hot summer continues maybe delay your planting until the ground is more moist.
What to do in September
Obviously keep up the watering in sustained hot weather. For years now we have been having sunny and dry Septembers
Top up the mulch to retain moisture and keep weeds down
(don’t forget they kept on growing until Xmas last
Keep pinching out your tomatoes and sowing new rills of
lettace, radishes and spinach
Time to prune the bigger shrubs that have finished
flowering like Wygelia, Philadelpus, and Sprirea- cut out
the old flowering wood back to new growth that next year’s
flowers will blom from.
A harder cut of the Wysteria can wait till January.
Mow your lawn on a higher setting now to keep moisture in
the grass to help mitigate against summer browning in dry
Start planning where you want your bulbs to come out in Spring. You can order them online now for planting until November.
Where to go in September
This is your very last chance to see Chiltern Lodge this
year. An exquisite garden developed by Lady Collum for
over 40 years, it features a series of interlocking room,
each one with a different purpose and feel- a herb garden,
pool room, water rill room and classical sandstone summer house.
The garden is lovingly tended with an eye for detail and
simple colour palettes.
It is open to the public just a few days of the year so put
the date in your diary now.
Also put Sheffield Park in your diaries for October for it’s dazzling autumnal displays of mature trees.