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What is a bulb?
Corms, rhizomes, tubers and bulbs are collectively called ‘bulbs'. They are storage organs for the next season's stems, leaves and flowers.
There are bulbs for many places in the garden from dense shade to dry and sunny.


Using bulbs in the garden
Spring bulbs can be used to make a formal spring bedding display, planted en masse and then replaced by summer bedding later in the season. Hyacinths and Tulips work well for this as they have a sculptural form. They should be planted in blocks of colour for best effect. If you use plants with different flowering times you will get a longer season of interest e.g. Tulips, use some that flower in early April, some late April and some May.


Spring bulbs can be interplanted with later perennials so that you get colour and interest before the perennials start to take over.


Grow tall bulbs through ground cover plants to create height and interest.


Spring bulbs also look great under shrubs with Winter interest e.g. Snowdrops around Cornus where the white flowers contrast the red stems.


Bulbs can be used to create a carpet on the ground e.g. Anemone blanda.


They can be used in containers to add a splash of colour to the patio.


Naturalise bulbs under specimen deciduous trees or in grass.


Buying bulbs
You need to choose bulbs with care to ensure they will perform well.

  • Press them between your thumb and forefinger. They should be firm. If they are soft, this is a sign of rot.
  • Avoid any that show signs of fungal infection (white patches).
  • Choose the biggest available for the cultivar that you want.
  • Buy as soon as you can to get the best choice.
  • Once purchased they need to be stored in a cool, dry place until planting time.

Planting and maintenance
Most bulbs like a light free draining soil although some tolerate it more damp like Camassias, Daffodils and Snowdrops.

Unless you have very free draining soil, it is worth adding some sharp grit to the bottom of the planting hole to aid drainage.

Once flowered, you need to cut down the flower stem to allow the plants energy to go into building reserves for next year rather than into food production.


Examples of bulbs

Click on any of the images below to enlarge.


Allium 'Purple Sensation' – A globe-like purple flower head on a long stem in mid-spring. It is a good architectural plant. Height 1m. It needs a light free draining soil.   Anemone blanda – small blue, pink or white daisy like flowers which will carpet the ground in mid-spring. They prefer a position in dappled shade. Height 10cm.   Bearded Iris - Delicate flowers with sword-shaped leaves adding an architectural touch to the garden. Don’t plant the rhizomes too deeply as these photosynthesize and help to provide food for the plant. They need full sun and a free draining soil.  

Crocosmia 'George Davison' - Strappy leaves with golden-yellow flowers in mid-summer. These plants attract hoverflies and bumblebees. They will tolerate a range of soils.

Cyclamen hederifolium – A small autumn/winter flowering plant with marbled foliage for nine months of the year. Height 8cm.
 Eranthis hyemalis (Winter Aconite) - Small golden yellow flowers that will carpet the ground in February and March. The flowers attract pollinating insects. They look good with snowdrops and bluebells in the dappled shade of deciduous trees. Alternatively they can be naturalized in grass for a more informal look. Height 8cm.
Eremurus – A tall upright plant with spires of flowers in summer. It needs a warm sheltered spot with free draining soil.

Galanthus nivalis (Snowdrop) – small white flowers in Feb/Mar. They prefer light shade and a heavier moist soil.

Narcissi (daffodils) - There is a wide range of narcissi both in terms of colour and size. They can be used in pots, in the border or for naturalizing in grass to add spring colour. They will grow in full sun or partial shade.
Nerine bowdenii – Pink flowers in autumn for some late colour. They need a warm sheltered spot with light, free draining soil.


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