10 bulbs to buy now to add zing to your spring
It’s almost time to start planting bulbs for a spring display. Hannah Stephenson leafs through some new additions and old favourites.
You may still be enjoying the summer, but if you want a gorgeous display of spring bulbs, you need to start planting them soon.
Narcissi, snowdrops, grape hyacinths, fritillarias and tulips all make great displays, and can be planted from late summer through to the end of autumn if you want a riot of colour in spring.
So check out these favourites to plant this year for a fantastic spring display…
1. Muscari armeniacum ‘Mountain Lady’ (Thompson & Morgan, from £10.99 for 25 bulbs; thompson-morgan.com)
A twist on the traditional grape hyacinth, ‘Mountain Lady’, which grows to just 20cm, has paler blue flower spikes that appear bicoloured as they burst from their white buds. Perfect for front of border spots, or in containers to brighten up patios from March to May. Plant plenty of them for the best display.
2. Scilla lilio-hyacinthus (Avon Bulbs, £10.00 for 3; avonbulbs.co.uk)
The name of these pint-sized bulbs derives from the fact they are lily-like and hate getting dried out. Plant in early autumn, ideally in woodland situations where they will give you generous mounds of deep green foliage, from which emerge the dark stems holding purple-blue cones of flowers. Also available in white.
3. Anemone ‘Fullstar Blue’ (£6.90 for 10 bulbs, farmergracy.co.uk)
One of the latest introductions from the exquisite range of Israeli anemones, ‘Fullstar Blue’ produces large, fully double blooms in the richest shade of mauve-blue. Plant the bulbs in autumn and overwinter them in a sheltered space for best results. When the weather warms in spring, they’ll start to sprout and can then be transferred to patio pots or sunny borders where they will grow to around 25cm, flowering in April and May.
4. Fritillaria ‘Twin Towers Tribute’ (Peter Nyssen, £6 each; peternyssen.com)
Named in remembrance of 9/11, this stunning fritillaria will produce two stems per bulb, and looks wonderful planted in groups of threes, as standalone specimens or mixed with contrasting daffodils, like Narcissus ‘Thalia’, and tulips ‘Negrita’ and ‘Menton’. Plant them deep, around 20cm, slightly on their side to prevent water entering the bulb, and add sharp sand or grit to the planting hole.
5. Allium ‘Ping Pong’ (Jacques Amand, 5 for £5; jacquesamandintl.com)
Alliums are quite wonderful in all their various forms, but some of the huge purple ones can seem a little ostentatious in the wrong setting. This lovely pure white variety with a ball-shaped flowerhead is much easier on the eye, a cooler specimen altogether, that will look good peppered among drifts of ornamental grasses. It grows between 40-60cm tall, flowering in June.
6. Tulip ‘Eyelash’ (Bloms Bulbs, £11.70 for 10; blomsbulbs.com)
These unusual bulbs, new for this year, have white outer petals and a deep rich pinkish-purple fringe that provide an eye-catching burst of colour. They’ll grow to around 55cm, doing best in well-drained soil with some sunshine. The large, robust flowers bloom in May and make great cut flowers as well as a stunning outdoor display. Plant them in groups for maximum impact.
7. Narcissus ‘Laurens Koster’ (Peter Nyssen, £3.80 for 10; peternyssen.com)
If you love scented narcissi, the Tazetta group is for you, and this elegant heirloom candidate has a lovely sweet fragrance. Planted en-masse, they are a beautiful sight in spring. They may look delicate but are strong and hold well in wind and rain. Perfect for container planting or the garden border, you can mix them with contrasting spring bulbs like Tulips ‘Orange Emperor’ and ‘Paul Scherer’.
8. Galanthus elwesii ‘Mount Everest’ (Taylors, around £4.99 for 7, for stockists check taylors-bulbs.com)
Snowdrops are a sign of hope as we start to emerge from the depths of winter, the first tiny signs of life while the rest of us are still hibernating. ‘Mount Everest’ is a bold new candidate, a large variety, growing to 20cm, with grey-green broad leaves. It’s perfect for pollinating insects, great for naturalising and also good in pots. It flowers in February and makes a good winter corner with Anemone blanda and Iris reticulata, thriving in woodland with a bit of shade. You will need to plant a lot to create an initial impact, before they’ve been allowed to naturalise.
9. Iris germanica ‘Mission Ridge’ (Suttons, £7.99 for 3 bare root plants; suttons.co.uk)
New from Suttons, but not exclusively, these bearded irises produce exotic blooms of snowy white and lilac-blue, but are not strictly bulbs. They grow from rhizomes, fleshy tubers planted on their sides near the soil surface. Growing up to 70cm, they look lovely in the classic cottage garden border, flowering firstly in late May and if you’re lucky, will give you a second show in early autumn.
10. Fritillaria imperialis ‘Red Beauty’ (Jacques Amand £6.50 each; jacquesamandint.com)
If you want some rich, warm colour in spring, this statuesque cultivar, new for 2020, will give you striking deep red flower bells in April and May, growing up to 90cm tall. It prefers free-draining humus-rich soil with added grit or organic matter for extra drainage. Plant it in sun or partial shade. Crown imperials, as fritillaria are also known, look great in the open garden or in groups of three in large tubs or pots.
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