Spring Flowering Bulbs
Nothing lights up the garden better than spring bulbs – they provide a burst of colour before most perennials, trees and shrubs have got going. Spring bulbs are one of the ﬁrst signs of longer, brighter days to come. With a bit of planning, you can enjoy colour from bulbs from February right through to June. They come back year after year too!
Spring bulbs are planted in autumn. They can be planted directly into borders and most grow very well in pots, making them perfect for patios and smaller gardens.
Bulbs generally need to be planted at a depth of around three times their size. They usually need sun or partial shade and free-draining soil (although see Camassia below), so if your soil is very heavy, incorporate some horticultural grit when planting.
Plant as many spring bulbs as you can aﬀord – they really do look best planted en masse, whether in the ground or in pots.
Most spring bulbs are perennial and will come up year after year if the conditions are right (tulips are the exception – while some may ﬂower for a few years, they’re best topped up every autumn for the best display). Always allow the foliage to die back completely before removing it – this feeds the bulb for next year’s display. If you’re growing them in pots, give
them a liquid feed after ﬂowering to help feed the bulb for next year - and
store the pot somewhere cool over summer. Alternatively, dig the bulbs up after ﬂowering and replant somewhere in the garden.
Here are a few of our favourites:
Snowdrops (Galanthus) are the ﬁrst bulbs to ﬂower, usually in February. They ﬂower whatever the weather – even in snow. Grow in moist, well- drained soil in partial shade – they look particularly good under shrubs and trees. Snowdrops can also be grown in pots.
Carpets of Crocus ﬂowers are a highlight in the garden from late winter onwards. They also provide a much-needed source of nectar and pollen for pollinating insects just emerging from hibernation. Crocuses are easy to grow and are well-suited to growing in pots or at the front of borders and naturalising in grass. They like a sunny spot.
Daﬀodils (Narcissus) brighten our gardens throughout spring. There are many diﬀerent varieties, some ﬂowering as early as February and others as late as early May. Daﬀodils range in height from about 10cm up to
45cm and come in a variety of colours and forms. In addition to the usual yellow, ﬂowers can be white, cream or lemon, with trumpets of contrasting shades. Some are scented. They grow brilliantly in pots and look great in borders.
Grape hyacinths, Muscari, have ﬂowers that look like a cross between a bunch of grapes and miniature hyacinths, in April and May. They’re known for their ﬂowers in brilliant shades of blue, but white, pink and purple varieties are also available. They look good at the front of a border, naturalised in grass or under deciduous shrubs. They spread easily so if you don’t want them to do this, grow them in pots or window boxes.
Tulips are perfect for adding spring colour to borders in April and May and also grow very well in pots. They’re technically perennial, but years of breeding to get the most beautiful blooms means that many varieties only ﬂower reliably for one year. Many gardeners plant new bulbs each autumn to ensure a good display. If you’re growing tulips in pots, you really need to plant fresh bulbs each year, just to be sure.
Alliums ﬂower in May and June, bridging the gap between spring and summer perfectly. Loved by bees, the beautiful pompom ﬂowers on tall stems come mostly in shades of purple, but also pink and white. They look fantastic threaded through a border – grow as many as you can for the most stunning eﬀect. Grow alliums in moist but well-drained soil in full sun.
Camassias produce tall spires of star-like ﬂowers in late April, May and early June. They come into their own at a time of year when many spring bulbs have ﬁnished ﬂowering and early perennials are yet to ﬂower.
Unlike many spring bulbs, Camassias will grow in heavy, moist soils, so they’re a good choice for areas of your garden where other spring bulbs may not thrive. Completely hardy, they come back year after year. Bees love the ﬂowers, and they’re largely untroubled by slugs and snails. However you plant them, plant generously, as they look best grown en masse, creating a haze of colour in a similar way to bluebells.