Spring planting

AUTUMN may be the time for bulb planting, but in spring it’s much more fun!

Back in September I planted a variety of bulbs in shallow pots and containers and put them behind the long, lean-to glasshouse.

Only now as they begin to flower do I take them on little trips around the garden to find more permanent homes. All I have to do is to dig a hole, pop them in, then firm well before standing back to admire.

The beauty of this arrangement is that you can see exactly where the bulbs are going to look best, where the gaps are, where colour is wanted, and what else is in flower in the vicinity instead of having to rely on a defective memory.

If you are planting a new area from scratch there may be little point in all this temporary potting, but for those with already congested borders, where every push of an autumn trowel seems to produce a crunch of resident bulb or root, the advantages of this spring installation is a far safer bet.

Whether or which, now is the time perhaps to look at bulbs and to make lists for late summer orders. In the meantime, and to sample just such an undertaking, head for the nearest garden centre and bring home a few pots of flowering dwarf bulbs. You will then discover the beauty of this late exercise and see exactly where the bulbs will give the best return.

Let me give you an example. Gardeners who grow Magnolia stellata will be quite familiar with the white spidery blooms that appear in April but if you plant a few pots of white Anemone nemorosa or Anemone blanda “White Splendour” beneath its spread (both have similar, white spidery flowers) the magnolia would be greatly enhanced, in bloom and out. If the bulbs flower before the magnolia, they will surely set up a note of anticipation.

If they flower afterwards, they’ll become echoes of what has passed. And if they all flower together, the bulbs will appear like fallen, miniaturised magnolias! For a pink scheme, one could try planting the crocus sold as “Ladykiller” the flower cup of which is pure white, beneath the branch spread of Magnolia x soulangeana, which boasts pink-tinged, goblet flowers with white insides.

Another scheme could be created using blue bulbs. Beneath a pure white silver Birch, it is possible to create a stunning scene using Scilla siberica “Spring Beauty” planted in interlocking drifts with the Oxford and Cambridge version of grape hyacinth, Muscari latifolium. Unlike the common grape hyacinth with its azure blue pokers above grassy foliage, this Muscari has each bloom set beside a broad, single, shield-like leaf.

Its university connection lies in the two-coloured flower head; Cambridge sky blue leading on top, and Oxford navy blue immediately below.

For those with congested borders, where every push of a trowel seems to produce a crunch of bulb or root, this spring installation is a far safer bet


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