As we enter November my garden is looking a little drab. There’s lots to do to ‘put it to bed’ for the winter but it’s all somewhat uninspiring. So, to cheer myself up I am already thinking about next spring when the first green shoots start to push their way up through the soil.
I always buy far too many spring bulbs and end up running around like a demented squirrel trying to find empty patches of soil to plant them in. I just can’t resist the thought of all those delicate, pretty early bulbs announcing the arrival of another growing year.
As I was planning this blog, I sat and thought about my favourite spring bulbs. Of course the list is huge, but narrowing it down, I came up with the following top five:
- Snowdrops (Galanthus) in a drift are just gorgeous. The moment I see their delicate little flower heads pushing up, even through snow, I know that spring is on its way!
- Tiny daffodils, or narcissi (Poeticus recurvus) – so delicate and more subtle than the rather lumbering yellow trumpet daffs we get later on.
- Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) I am a sucker for bluebells. Loved them as a child and still do. A Devon wood carpeted in bluebells is a sight to behold.
- Runuculus – great for cutting and bringing indoors, these pretty bright blooms are guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
- Aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) This little plant is only about 10cm (4in) tall and looks best grown in a group, preferably somewhere that gets the morning sun.
It’s a bit soggy in the garden just at the moment, but the bulbs need planting. The worst thing that can happen is to not get on with it and then find the ground is frozen – disaster! Here are a few tips to help you get a lovely display this spring.
- Always plant bulbs in ‘informal’ groups, or drifts – don’t plant ones or twos or in regimented lines! Actually throwing a handful of bulbs across the ground and planting them where they land is a simple way of doing it.
- When buying bulbs, reject any that are soft or showing signs of mould. Small bulbs may not flower in their first year.
- Bulbs should be planted in holes three to four times as deep as the bulb itself. So, for example, a 1in crocus bulb needs to be planted in a hole 3-4in deep.
- Fill large plastic pots with your favourite bulbs and, just before they are about to flower, use them to plug holes in the border. Plastic pots can also be slipped inside more elegant terracotta ones and whipped out when the bulbs are over. Clever!
- Finally, do read the packaging on your bulbs to ensure you plant them at the right time. Lots of garden centres sell them from July onwards and they want them sold and out the way before the stock up on Christmas baubles, but July is way too early to plant spring bulbs.