Planting bulbs for spring drama

If you want to ensure colour, drama and fabulous spring flowers, then plant, plant plant. Bulbs are nature’s treasure chests. Inside each bulb is a flower bud just waiting to emerge. By planting these dormant jewels from late summer into autumn you can give them the head start that they need to burst into life next spring.

Bulbs are possibly one of the most underrated type of plant, because you are guaranteed fantastic results as long as you plant them in a well drained soil in an open, sunny position.

Choosing bulbs

With literally hundreds if not thousands of garden bulbs on offer, it can be bewildering choosing the right ones. Think of it like a grown up pick and mix, you can literally select your favourites and plant lots of them, but try a few new one’s too. And when it comes to bulbs, size matters, so buy the best you can afford to ensure you are getting large, healthy bulbs that are ready to flower.

bag of bulbs
Choosing the best quality bulbs is important for the best resutls. Image: Martin Mulchinock

Creating impact

Bulbs are a brilliant way to paint colour around your garden. Whether you plant them in the border in contrasting blocks of colour, or create a gradual symphony of changing shades you can add different effects as you plant. It’s just like making a piece of art and what’s really great is that you can change it each year, add to it or even plant it in containers and move it around. Bulbs are the drama queens that every garden needs; they are affordable, easy and great for beginners too.

The contrasting flame splashed orange flowers of ‘Princess Irene’ create vibrant highlights in the garden. Image: Richard Jackson

Dazzling Daffodils

These yellow beacons are botanically called narcissi, it’s not meant to be confusing, but it can be. There are hundreds of different types from the pretty dwarf varieties that are perfect for the front of the border and for pots, to the sweetly scented that are often (but not always) forced for Christmas, as well as the large trumpets and orange eyed beauties. To be honest each and every one is a wonder. These harbingers of spring are some of the earliest bulbs to flower, their sunshine yellow flowers bringing vibrant relief after winter.

The sweetly scented flowers of Narcissus ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ is a spring favourite.

If you are short on space and want your plants to earn their place, then choose scented narcissi. They give your twice as much ‘bang for your buck’ – they look beautiful and have a divine fragrance. Great varieties to choose are ‘Cheerfulness’, ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ and ‘Geranium’. And the great thing about narcissi is that they are pretty pest free and will come back year after year to delight you and transform the garden.

Tremendous Tulips

Tulips are almost the perfect plant. Each plump bulb hides the most exquisite flower deep inside, all you’ve got to do is to coax it out and it’s very very easy. So easy that even if you’ve never, ever gardened before you can do this, you really can.

Whether you’ve got a few pots that need a makeover, or a new border that you want to transform, clumps of tulips are the perfect choice. Tulips are easy to plant, not very fussy and designed to create a border firework display in your garden. Some flower early in March and April and others keep the display going right into May. There are dozens of different types from dwarf varieties, singles, doubles and a huge range of colours.

Tulip ‘Antoinette’ has multiple colour changing flowers from one bulb. Image: John Morgan

Bouquet tulips are perfect for cutting and the gorgeous Peony Flowered tulips that look like peonies can be planted en-masse for a stunning display. Look out for some special colour combinations and the amazing, colour changing, multi-headed tulips.

This stunning combination of exotic double flowered tulips is a real winner.

Awesome Alliums

As the spring display starts to soften give it a new injection of vibrancy with some alliums. The great thing with bulbs is that you can plant them all at the same time and then sit back and let them do their thing. So with a little bit of planning you can have a continual firework display in the border for months on end, with a crescendo of alliums to complete the show. Alliums don’t just look good in bud; the flowers open into a huge ball of purple splendor, each one a starry burst of petals within the flower head. But even as they start to set seed, they create an alien-like globe of interest, that dries and becomes a pale skeletal form that punctuates the border until you cut it down.

Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ is a fantastic border plant.

Not only can you cut the flower heads for indoor decorations, but the seed heads can be dried, sprayed and used for festive displays too. Of all the spring flowering bulbs alliums are perhaps the most reliable for coming back bigger and better for years to come. So for the price of a bottle of wine, you are buying weeks of interest for years to come. For fabulous, reliable bright purple balls of drama choose Allium ‘Purple Sensation’, it combines beautifully with the softer lavender shades of Allium ‘Gladiator’.

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