Sarah Squire explores the key steps to planting and making the most of popular spring flowering bulbs…
I feel duty bound to let you know that the new seasons spring flowering bulbs are now available in our centres! The earlier you buy them the fresher they are and there will be a greater selection to choose from. Size matters in the bulb world, as top grade bulbs are larger and will produce better blooms. Avoid small shrivelled or mouldy looking bulbs and those which show any evidence of having been attacked by small flies.
The key to a successful spring display is to banish all thoughts of trendy minimalism and go for something of a splash. Bulbs look best planted in generous clumps rather than dotted around and you do need quite a few for a meaningful display. There are bulbs for all situations, from naturalising in grass to borders, pots and window boxes and even for indoors.
Another essential is to make sure that you plant the bulbs deep enough. If not the result will be adequate in the first year but may be disappointing thereafter. This is a particular issue with tulips which require a planting depth of about 15 cm’s.
Daffodils are a spring essential that should not be overlooked. They are easy to grow, reliable and make a splendid sight. An informal mixed display of daffodils looks particularly good naturalised in a verge or woodland setting, but in the garden I prefer clumps of one particular variety. This also opens up the possibility of a succession of flowers. You could choose for example Golden Harvest or Ice Follies for an early flush followed by Golden Ducat for the mid season and perhaps White Lion for later flowering. Miniature Narcissi with their dainty flowers are also very appealing. Tete a Tete (20 cm’s yellow) is probably the best known but there are many others to choose from.
Tulips are fantastic and you do not have to stick to yellow, pink or red. The Snakeshead Fritillaria have been popular for some years and rightly so. Their stately relative is the Fritillaria Imperialis which is a magnificent plant. It has a crown of flowers borne on tall stems. The flowers literally ooze with nectar and make a splendid sight in the border. There are bright yellow varieties to make a splash but I prefer the more subtle red hue of Fritillaria Imperialis “Rubra”.
Crocus are an essential but Alliums are something else entirely, from the dwarf to the giant they are elegant, structural and very “now”. They have been ubiquitous at the Chelsea Flower Show for a number of years and for very good reason. They are easy to grow, the flowers last for ages and afterwards the seed heads are also very attractive. A sophisticated choice for any garden!