Bulbs for Spring Interest
By Steve Malsher
Autumn has arrived with a vengeance, bringing 100mm of rain in one weekend (3rd and 4th October) in many places. Like me, I’m sure you were sitting inside with a warm drink and a good book – my books were spring bulb catalogues, hence inspiring me to write this article. Autumn is one of my favourite horticultural times of the year as I look forward to planning colour for gardens in late winter and early spring.
Before I share some of my favourite bulbs for planting at this time of year, here are a few general ‘rules of thumb’ for bulbs.
- Plant them at three times the height of the dormant bulb.
- To avoid them rotting during a wet winter, place a small layer of horticultural grit at the bottom of your hole.
- For small bulbs (Snowdrop, Muscari, Crocus), plant 5 per hole.
- For medium bulbs (Daffodil, Tulip, some Alliums), plant three per hole.
- Bulbs always look better en-masse so don’t be scared to over-order. I normally advise amateur gardeners to think of what they are going to order and triple it.
Who doesn’t love snowdrops? Especially with so many different cultivars to choose from, ranging in price from a few pence a bulb to hundreds of pounds!
Galanthus elwesii is named after H.J. Elwes, an English plant collector who found the original plants in Turkey. Unlike other snowdrops, the leaves of Galanthus elwesii neatly fold inside each other. The flowers have two green spots on the inner petals, which sometimes fuse together.
These are personal favourites of mine and there are so many colours to choose from. For me, I just love seeing swathes of purple and white.
Crocus ‘Flower Record’ and ‘Joan of Arc’ fulfil this passion admirably.
Now, this could be seen as contentious, but I am not a fan of yellow daffodils in borders. However, I love them as naturalised plants at the edge of woodland planting, and I think one of the best all-rounders for this job is Narcissus ‘Minnow’. One of the best for naturalising, pots, indoors, and forcing.
In terms of recommending daffodils for borders, I would look to ‘Paperwhite’; a fantastic cut flower with an amazing scent. An alternative suggestion would be good old ‘Thalia’ – a simple, but striking daffodil.
With so many cultivars and colours, it is difficult to pin down a favourite. There are certainly many options for all situations. Personally, my two favourites are ‘Alison Bradley’, and ‘Ivory Floradale’. However, my best advice is to go with whatever matches your colour scheme.
Always buy more than you think you will need and plant in swathes for the best effect!