Planting spring bulbs

Posted: Wednesday 17 October 2012
by Pippa Greenwood

The onset of autumn weather has been unusually late. But, undeterred, I’ve been indulging in something that tells me it must be autumn: planting bulbs.

Yellow daffodil flowers

It is a strange old season – the onset of autumn weather has been unusually late in my area and not many leaves have fallen yet. But at least my liquidambar tree is finally colouring up well. And, undeterred, I’ve been indulging in something that tells me it must be autumn: planting spring bulbs

Bulb planting is one of the most calming, enchanting pastimes I know, and I thoroughly recommend it, especially if you have things on your mind or are generally having a tricky time. The simple process of plunging the trowel or bulb planter into the ground, carefully nestling the bulbs in place, then tucking them back beneath the soil is very relaxing.  

As an added bonus, with the vast majority of bulbs, you know as you plant them that you’re creating a long-lasting display. Many of my real favourites are the easy-to-grow daffodils and other narcissi, as well as crocuses, scillas and alliums

I especially enjoy grabbing a handful of miniature narcissus bulbs, usually ‘Tete-a-tete’, and, holding them close to ground, gently tossing them on to the lawn. I plant each one where it falls, creating a natural, random effect. In fact, I could happily cover the whole lawn in bulbs, but I restrain myself and keep them tucked beneath shrubs or in clumps in places where they will be easy to mow around – otherwise I’ll be in trouble with my son. 

This year, the lawn is just too wet to do my other bulb-planting trick of cutting a large ‘H’ shape in the grass with a spade. Then I would just peel back the turf, fluff up the soil and scatter the bulbs, before replacing the turf flaps. Instead, I’m planting each bulb in its own individual hole using a pointed, narrow-headed transplanting trowel (much to be recommended). 

In a recent Gardeners’ Question Time programme, I was interested to hear one of the audience suggest using curry powder to keep pests from digging up newly planted bulbs. It’s a tempting idea, as badgers often dig up and eat mine within days. I assume the curry aroma masks the smell of the bulbs. But as it keeps raining, I’m not sure the curry powder would last long enough. I’m also not sure I fancy a garden that smells of curry, so I’ll be covering all my bulbs with pop-up net-covered cloches instead. Hopefully that’ll keep the squirrels off too. Fingers crossed.

Bulbs ready for planting

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oldchippy 20/10/2012 at 21:27

My be with all this rain this year next year's daffodil's will have some flowers not like the display we had this year mostly blind.

hollie hock 20/10/2012 at 21:48

oldchippy- I do know what you mean,very poor year for daffrs this year. That's why I'm not buying any this year, all those that didn't perform I'm hoping they will they will come into their own next.

Daintiness 23/10/2012 at 18:39

Some years it is nigh impossible to dig the soil deep enough to plant bulbs due to dry weather. I have had the pleasure of planting lots this year(dwarf narcissi and alliums) without the usual hard work of getting through bone dry soil! Every cloud as they say...looking forward to a beautiful display in spring.

hollie hock 23/10/2012 at 21:34

I'm optimistic that I will get a good show next year