Choosing spring bulbs

Want your garden to look awesome in spring? Plant spring bulbs now.

In fact you could plant them right through to December, but the longer you wait the colder it is to go out there and start digging in cold soil.  Also, the earlier you buy your bulbs the better selection you will find in the garden centres.

When you look at bulbs you’ll find some loose, to be bought in bulk and some ready packaged. Which should you buy? Personally I buy from the bulk bin so I can check each bulb individually for quality. In packages you can’t see what you’re getting and it might not be top quality.

Choosing bulbs look for one that is at least as large as the others and preferably a little larger. If the bulb seems to be double, that’s great – you get two plants for the price of one. You want the bulb to be firm, with no sign of mould, cuts or bits nicked out of it.

What kinds of bulbs to buy? The most common types are crocus, snowdrop, daffodil and tulip. Crocus and snowdrop bloom earlier and are smaller than daffodils and tulips.

Snowdrops are always white, sometimes with a touch of green. They have delicate white bell-like flowers and grow three or four inches tall. Because they are pale and delicate it’s a good idea to plant them to the front of your beds, somewhere you can easily see them and enjoy them.

Crocuses grow to about three inches in height with thin, spear-like leaves. They have goblet-shaped flowers in white, purple or orange. Plant them in clumps for a dramatic effect.

Miniature daffodils flower before their larger cousins, but they have the same distinctive trumpet shaped blooms. Most daffodils are yellow, but you’ll also find shades of cream or white, pink or orange. Colour variations tend to be more expensive than the yellow.

Tulips come in almost every colour imaginable, some with striped petals or shading from one colour to another. The flowers, while all basically cup-shaped, can vary widely in shape and form. These are flowers that can demonstrate your imagination and your feeling for your garden. All pale delicate whites? Blends of reds and purples? Your choice.

You’ll also find scilla and muscari, smaller flowers whose bulbs can be planted between the larger daffodils and tulips for colour contrast. You’ll find a very small early iris too that looks particularly effective in a window box or planter. There is also a later, taller iris that blooms when all the other bulbs have died down.

Hyacinths bloom at the same time as the early daffodils and have a heavenly aroma. Plant them close to the house or the path where you can enjoy them.

For something truly spectacular plant a crown imperial (Fritillaria imperialis). It will grow to two or three feet tall , with a cluster of orange bell-like flowers hanging from the top of the stem. A show stopper.

You can plant different types of bulbs together for contrast and a display that lasts all spring, or just enjoy your favourites. But the choices you make now and the time you spend planting will give you your bright display of spring flowers.

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