Planting bulbs in lawns

Posted: Monday 31 October 2011
by Adam Pasco

When visiting large gardens during spring, I always admire the drifts of dwarf flowering bulbs growing up through wide expanses of grass.

Close-up of Adam Pasco planting bulbs in a lawnWhen visiting large gardens during spring, I always admire the drifts of dwarf flowering bulbs growing up through wide expanses of grass. Catch them when flowers are at their best and they look magnificent. They could be snowdrops or crocus, dainty dwarf narcissi or delicate snake's head fritillaries – I love them all.

Like many others I'm sure, I try to work out the cost of these massed plantings of thousands of bulbs. I also think of the sheer effort that goes into planting these areas, transformed for just a few short weeks, before all trace of the bulbs is mown away.

Of course, once established, bulbs will readily multiply. Planting bulbs in my own small lawn somehow isn't the same, though - my garden doesn't have the breathtaking scale of open grassland.

I've tried, of course, scattering crocus in a haphazard way to try and reflect a natural effect. They've grown and flowered, but then grass needs to be left for several weeks for the bulbs to complete their life cycle and die down naturally before it can be cut. It does look untidy I admit, and my wife just doesn't like the look of flowers growing in the lawn. She loves their cheery spring colour in pots and borders, but not in the lawn.

But this year I'm hoping to prove her wrong. In addition to trying again with a few delicate crocuses I've also planted an area with Fritillaria meleagris, the snake's head fritillary. I've always loved these bulbs, and have been lucky enough to find them growing naturally in meadows in some parts of the country.

This is actually my second attempt. I did plant some in my lawn a few years ago, but not a single one grew! I know they prefer a damp site, so perhaps my area of grass was too dry to get them established. A few dozen bulbs are now cosy beneath a turf overcoat, and this time the area is being regularly watered to ensure they grow.

Now I'll have to wait and see if they grow. And if they do, will my wife insist I go straight out with the mower to return our lawn to its natural state? Watch this space...

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Gardeners' World Web User 31/10/2011 at 16:41

I have only planted bulbs in pots to prevent our dog from digging them out of the grass ;)

Gardeners' World Web User 31/10/2011 at 17:51

It's not my dog digging in the lawn that bothers me, but the squirrels! They are burying nuts everywhere – in pots, borders, and in the lawn. They haven't started digging up bulbs though, just digging holes to bury things.

Gardeners' World Web User 31/10/2011 at 18:58

Adam, the lawns round the student residences of Bristol University have tens of thousands of many different species of snowdrops, crocuses, grape hyacinths,daffodils, and more exotic bulbs as well. They are a glorious sight in the spring. I have finished planting my daffs, crocuses and tulips but still have alliums and anemones to plant as well as scillas,pushkinias,etc in alpine troughs. my friend gave me some fritillaria uva-vulva which I shall put in pots this year. They remind me of when I was a Brown Owl in the GG movement - the flowers are brown and yellow. Just love bulbs. Anemone pavonina is a beauty in the grass at the Botanic Garden and a great favourite with the visitors.

Gardeners' World Web User 31/10/2011 at 19:18

Just remember that you can't use "Weed & Feed" type products on your lawn if you want naturalized bulbs. We made that mistake for 2 years before it dawned on us why the bulbs never did well... LOL!

Gardeners' World Web User 04/11/2011 at 01:02

Oh Snake Head Fritillaries are my absolute favourite but how impossible are they to grow!? I have planted bulbs every year and think my total so far is one flower which the dog then trampled on!! The annoying thing is that I live bordering wet moorland so should have the perfect site for them as our garden is fairly wet during the winter months, however despite these 'perfect' conditions they just don't seem to want to grow!...will I give up trying?...don't be daft I have 50 bulbs in the kitchen ready to plant out at the weekend!!

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