Spring flowering bulbs are beautiful and useful in your garden. But which spring bulbs should you choose? Why might you plant them? Where, when, and how should you do so? Read on for some tips and suggestions that might help you as you plan your garden.
Which Spring Bulbs Could You Choose?
Some key spring flowering bulbs (some actually flowering early enough that it is still late winter) are:
How to Choose Your Bulbs
Which spring bulbs you will choose will depend on a number of factors. For example, you should consider:
Whether you are planting in sun or shade.
Your choice as to whether you will be growing in containers or in the ground.
If you are planting formally in a bed or border, or more naturalistically in a woodland or bank-side setting perhaps, or in a meadow/ lawn.
Daffodils and tulips both prefer a sunnier and more free-draining setting. While plants like snowdrops, winter aconite, crocus, hyacinths and bluebells will do well in dappled woodland shade.
Ideally, it would be good, in either a sun or woodland setting, to have a succession of spring flowers that take over from one another and provide blooms over as long a season as possible.
Some spring flowering bulbs, like snowdrops, winter aconites and bluebells are best planted, or transplanted ‘in the green’. In other words, after they have flowered but while they are still in leaf. However, you can also buy dried bulbs for these plants, and these can be successful.
Daffodils and tulips are of course amongst the most common spring bulbs to choose for UK garden. One thing to note is the huge variety of options available. Both daffodils and tulips come in a huge range of colours and forms. You can also choose early, mid and late season bloomers to keep displays going over as long a period as possible.
Why Plant Spring Bulbs?
There are plenty of bulbs that you could choose to play a role in your garden design. Those that flower in spring are amongst the most important, because they can provide colour and cheer when tones in a garden tend to be far more muted. They can also serve a practical purpose.
As spring ephemerals, spring flowering bulbs catch and store water and nutrients early in the year. But don’t lock them up over a long time period. They can help reduce incidence of soil erosion and run-off, can help to stabilise slopes… And they can be used in forest garden design to suppress grass growth when planted around the drip lines of trees.
Of course, they are also a boon for local pollinators in your garden. And will draw in pollinators so they are in place for when they are needed to pollinate cultivated fruit trees and other crops.
Where to Plant Your Bulbs
Choosing where to plant spring bulbs very much depends on your own preferences, and on the details and characteristics of your particular garden. As mentioned above, where you choose to plant spring bulbs will have a bearing on which ones you choose, and the benefits they can bestow.
Daffodils and tulips make for a traditional border display. They can also make for a great container garden in a relatively sunny spot. Generally, when it comes to displays of daffodils and tulips – the more plants you have together, the better they will look. Group them together rather than dotting them individually through a garden bed and the displays will be more impressive.
Daffodils and other spring bulbs can also look great in drifts across a lawn or meadow area. Likewise, some of the more shade-liking spring bulbs will look fantastic in drifts below trees in woodland gardens, or around trees and shrubs in informal borders.
Spring bulbs can also work very well planting more formally around the edges of the guilds planted to aid a fruit tree or another tree in your garden. There, as mentioned above, they can aid in catching nutrients and water, and help in suppressing grass incursion into the guild zone.
Spring bulbs can also be very useful for brightening up and protecting sloping sites. Daffodils and tulips can help in stabilising and preventing nutrient loss and erosion on a sunny bank. While those spring flowering bulbs that prefer some shade will be very useful on a more shaded slope, or beneath trees.
When To Plant Spring Flowering Bulbs
You may or may not be aware that autumn is the time to plant spring bulbs in your garden. But when exactly should you plant different spring bulbs?
Daffodils, hyacinth and crocus are usually best planted early in the season – ideally by the end of September or in October. Though you can keep planting over the next month or so if you have not got the job done when you intended.
(Hardy summer-flowering bulbs should also be planted out in September or October.)
With tulips, however, it is best to hold off and plant later – in November.
How To Plant Spring Bulbs
Generally speaking, spring bulbs should be planted around 2-3 times their own depth and around 2 bulb widths apart. Make sure you identify the top and bottom of the bulbs and plant them the right way up, with the roots downwards and shoot upwards. If you can’t work out which way up a bulb should be, it is best to place it on its side.
When you are replacing the soil or growing medium in containers around your bulbs, make sure there are no large clumps or rocks in the way, and that there are no air pockets.
When planting to create realistically natural drifts, take your bulbs and drop them from waist height. Plant them exactly where they fall. Use a pointed trowel or bulb planter to make things easier when making the holes for each bulb – especially if you are planting a lot of them.
If you are placing spring flowering bulbs in a container, make sure that you choose a container and growing medium that are suitable for the bulbs you have chosen. Be sure to water well upon planting and remember that more watering will be required when plants are grown in containers than when they are grown in the ground.
Plant Spring Flowering Bulbs For Your Garden
Spring flowering bulbs really can enhance many gardens, and will suit many different garden themes and styles. If you’ve not got round to planting bulbs yet (and the ground is not frozen or very waterlogged where you live) then you can still plant certain bulbs now and give it a go. Bulbs may not perform at their best in the first season, but the displays should just get better and better as the years go by.
Which are your favourite spring bulbs? Have you planted all of yours yet? Let us know and share your tips and suggestions in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.