If I had to pick a season in the garden that I love most there would be a tussle between spring and autumn. I love spring for its bright cheer after the gloom of winter and autumn for its warmth and soft light. Both seasons feature bulbs; planting in autumn and enjoying the resulting flowers in spring. There is little in the garden that gives me more joy than selecting and planting spring bulbs. In my mind they are the accessories to your planting, creating surprise pops of colour and texture amongst your scheme. Really, no garden can be without them.
We generally think of tulips as single stem, single bloom bulbs but ‘Antoinette’ is one of the few multi-head tulips available and is well worth tracking down. It is a late season bloomer with a large bulb (it has to store enough energy for several flowerheads) and goblet shaped petals. The blooms open with a yellow tinge and fade into a kaleidoscope of peaches and pinks as the petals open outward and eventually fall. It looks beautiful with darker tulips or with a wash of forget-me-not underneath.
‘Glory of the Snow’ lives up to its common name and flowers very early in spring, often pushing through a light dusting of snow and frost. The star shaped blooms are a true blue and although the plant itself is tiny, the effect is so vibrant that you don’t have to get up close and personal to appreciate it. Bold drifts are the key to creating a display that will make you smile from ear to ear, either in the ground, in a window box or a container. It can be invasive and will happily spread, so harden your heart and pull it out where you don’t want it to take over.
It is easy to confuse Leucojum for snowdrops, and you would be correct in thinking that they are closely related. The Leucojum towers over its cousin (well, by about 6-8 inches which is a veritable tower block for a snowdrop) with delightful green edged white flowers in March and April on elegant stems. Although its foliage is ungainly once the flowers are over, it warrants its place in the garden by adding height and bridging the gap between smaller bulbs and shrubs to create interest when the garden can be at its flattest.
This daffodil is sometimes referred to as ‘old fashioned’, but I like to think of it more as a classic. My Mum has been growing this variety for as long as I can remember and now I do too. Pure white petals lap a crinkly yellow centre edged with an orange frill and the scent is wonderfully sweet. They are also apparently very deer resistant which is useful if you want a great daffodil to naturalise under trees. If I had to pick one daffodil that I couldn’t garden without, it would be this one.
Known as ‘Fruit-tella’ by my staff, these are seriously sexy bulbs. Brooding dark purple bell-shaped blooms are produced in groups of thirty or so down a blue green stem. Reaching about a metre in April or May (depending on your microclimate) they look wonderful with grasses or silver plants which compliments their foliage. Occasionally they come up blind and can be decimated by molluscs and lily beetle, but otherwise they are pretty undemanding and will definitely be a talking point in any garden. The bulbs are a considerable size and generally do not fit inside a bulb planter so deploy a border spade rather than a hand trowel and set aside a decent amount of time. Planting these is not a five-minute job!
Lots of bulbs to plant? Our experts have tested the best bulb planters to help you choose the right one for you and your garden.