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Thursday 31 August 2023

It Is Time To Start Planting Spring Bulbs

It is a new season and we have a sweet shop of bulbs and this is the time to start choosing and planting them for next spring and possibly a few for Christmas!

We have found some stunners this year. There are bulbs for fragrance, unusual exotic flowers, woodlands, wildlife. We have miniatures, some for cut flowers and some to naturalise. I have spotted some  exquisite double Narsissus Tete a Tete that I will be planting!

Spring bulbs are planted from September all except tulips they can wait until November. That means plant your snowdrops, daffodils, Narcissus, hyacinths, sillas, iris, crocus, alliums, fritillarias, muscari, camassias etc to enjoy next spring now and choose your tulips.
 Bulbs are suited to many different situations

Snowdrops through grass

3 successions of tulips, early to late
Bulbs are successful in amongst the grass, in borders and also in pots. Multiple decks of planting in a deep pots can provide a continuous flowering period from the beginning of spring until the end. 

Lasagne Planting In Pots
The term Lasagne planting has become quiet common place now and it simply means planting  layers of bulbs on top of one another with the latest flowering variety on the bottom layer. An example might be a late flowering tulip variety as the bottom layer, followed by and early narcissus and then a crocus or iris. Alternatively carefully choose different seasons of tulip as seen my pot here. Violas plant perfectly now so you don't need to be looking at bare compost until spring and everything will grow through from underneath.

Before you plant its useful to check what the RHS recommends.
The RHS Recommendations for Planting Bulbs:

''This method applies to spring-, summer- and autumn-flowering bulbs:
1.    Dig a hole wide and deep enough for your bulbs. Work out the planting depth by roughly measuring the bulb from base to tip and doubling or tripling this length – this figure is the rough planting depth. For example, a 5cm (2in) high bulb should be 10-15cm (4-6in) below soil level
2.       Place the bulbs in the hole with their ‘nose’, or shoot, facing upwards. Space them at least twice the bulb’s own width apart
3.    Replace the soil and gently firm with the back of a rake. Avoid treading on the soil as this can damage the bulbs ''

As a rule of thumb most bulbs like to be twice their own depth. We also now have a microryzal fungi planting agent to add to sprinkle under your bulbs and improve there establishment.
When the soil is very damp and heavy you can plant bulbs on their side if they are prone to taking in water from the top and rotting. Also if you are not sure which is the top or where the shoot will come from you can plant the bulb on its side and it will correct itself.
You may wish to scatter the bulbs and plant them where they land for a more natural effect.

Planting in the green
 You may wish to enjoy your bulbs in pots and plant them outt after they have flowered or while flowering. It is often recommended that Erythronium (dogs tooth violet) anemone nemorosa (wood anemone), silla peruviana,silla sibirica, chionodoxa, aconites, bluebells and snowdrops are planted in the green although bulbs are also successful and are planted now.

Forcing Bulbs
Flowers on the table for Christmas or as gifts.
3rd Week in September for Christmas flowers. Hyacinths will flower 10-12 weeks from potting if kept in a cool, dark room (or under a cardboard box) until they have shoots about 2 inches tall. Narcissus can flower flower 8-10 weeks from potting and don't need to be kept in the dark. I would suggest the fragrant Paper Whites and those in the Tazetta family such as Hoopoe or Minnow.

Some Planting Situations
1) Planting in moist woodland shade
There are lots of woodland bulbs suitable for moist shade such as  bluebells, erythroniums and Anemone nemorosa

2) Dryer shade
Planting on the south facing side of a boundary is much dryer shade ideal for Anemone Blanda, chitodoxas and also cyclamen corms.

3) South Facing dryer well drained conditions
This situation would be on the south side of a hedge. It is suited to tulips.

Planting in Grass
What you plant must be able to compete with the grass and you must not cut the lawn until the foliage has died down. Narcissus are ideal and look natural. Parks tend to choose the taller daffodils. Crocus and miniature iris are commonly planted. Snakes Head Fritillaries are a native plant that like moist conditions. They will look very natural in spring grass or partly sunny woodlands with ferns ,hostas and dicentra.

Planting in Containers

Most bulbs can be planted in pots. I have talked about the trend for lasagne planting above to give you a longer season of colour from one container. 
Drop containers into your borders for instant colour. It is not cheating to have containers of bulbs planted and dropped into holes in the garden when in flower then lifted later. Certain bulbs will have more impact. Tulips can be very dramatic with so many exotics and colours to choose from. Plant about 1 per inch of pot i.e 12 in a 12”. Shades of colour that harmonise such as black (dark purple) tulips with lilac mauve a Large flowering alliums can look spectacular. Large showy Fritillaries can look magnificent.
When it comes to containers there is a whole host of planting to be enjoyed. We like adding spring bulbs to mixed hardy containers and alpine pots. It is also just a lovely to see violas under planted with snowdrops. Imagination can take over with so many possibilities but never be without some pots of narsissus for early colour.

Bulb Planting Partners
This could be a huge list but there are some specific foliage plants that mix and compliment many planting schemes.Many spring flowering plants such as  dicentra, hellebores, dianthus, vinca minor plant successfully with bulbs. Foliage like ornamental grasses , heucheras, ferns and hostas all work well under-planted with spring bulbs.
Other spring flowering suggestions that can blend and compliment are Phaeum geraniums, nepeta,  artemisia, stachis, Alchemila molis, Campanula carpatica, arabis and aubrietia.