Spring flowering bulbs brighten the garden from when snow is on the ground right through to the sunlit early summer. Here is David Hall's guide to achieving a marvellous display of colour to herald in the new year.
Early September is the ideal time to buy spring flowering bulbs, plant them now and you'll have a fabulous display of colour next year.
Spring bulbs, including lots of colourful varieties of narcissi (daffodils), will soon be arriving at garden centres, but bear in mind that tulips should be purchased and planted later in the year.
When buying bulbs, check that they are undamaged, firm and the skin is still in place. What you need are healthy looking bulbs from a reliable supplier, don't buy them if they feel soft or appear shrivelled.
Bulbs will do well in any soil as long as it's well drained. If you happen to have clay soil, dig deeper than usual and plant the bulbs on grit or else the bulbs will rot.
Be careful to plant the right way up, with the 'nose' at the top. Planting depth will depend on the type of bulb but normally twice or three times as deep as the bulb will suffice. If the bulbs are too shallow they will not flower.
Plant bulbs in groups where there is full sun or semi-shade although bluebells and crocuses prefer more dappled shade.
Locations can be quite varied. Think about filling the border with colour before shrubs come into flower or naturalize them in the lawn.
For the latter, scatter the bulbs and plant them in a haphazard fashion using a bulb planter and then putting back the grass and earth.
Bulbs also look superb in containers which can of course be moved around the garden to where they look most effective. After the bulbs have flowered, the containers can be moved out of view.
Foliage should only be removed after it has died off, the bulb uses the foliage to gather energy, so don't tie the leaves either.
Feeding bulbs is recommended, seaweed, liquid manure, or high potash fertilizer if they are in a planter would be suitable. A mulch of well rotted manure or compost would also be advisable if they are in a border.
If the bulbs are naturalized you can't cut the particular area of grass where they are located for several weeks, so early flowering bulbs may be preferred.
When they appear, bulbs offer bright early season colour when the rest of the garden is still dormant and monochrome. These harbingers of spring are a welcome indication that the worst of the winter is past and you realise what a fine investment you made during the previous autumn.
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