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Plant colourful bulbs

It's almost time to pop into your local garden centre and stock up on bulbs for spring. Here are some of the easiest bulbs to grow in your garden - or in pots.

Fill your garden with a colourful array of spring-flowering bulbs that will be available in your local garden centre as from the end of March, so don't miss out on a wide selection of bulbs and get planting!

They might not look like much, but those innocuous-looking bulbs hold the promise of magic to come. Throughout the winter months, the bulbs will grow and be ready to push their green shoots through the bare earth in a few weeks’ time, and show off their glorious blooms as spring arrives.

Lilium Asiatics

A beautiful assortment of jewel colours, Lilium have six petals and are sweetly scented. Plant in small clusters of a single variety between shrubs and perennials for stunning effect in beds and borders. Bulbs should be planted with about 10cm of soil over the top and spaced 20 cm apart. You can also grow Lilies as pot plants. Place old, rich manure on top of the soil after planting. Lilies should never be allowed to dry out but not waterlogged - keep in moist soil

GOOD TO KNOW: When you work with bulbs, you will automatically be working with colour, so it may be useful to think about the effect of different colours in a design.

Hyacinthoides

Plant at the front of beds, or spread throughout beds for clumps of contrast. Hyacinthoides, from Greek mythology, requires well draining soil and a cool location. Plant in semi-shade in May after soil temperatures have cooled, and ensure sand is mixed in with the soil to allow good drainage. Space 10cm apart with 5cm of soil above the corm. While a layer of mulch is recommended, do not apply fresh compost to be used. Always ensure the soil is moist to root level -  especially in pots and feed regularly.

GOOD TO KNOW: Plant spring-flowering bulbs once the heat of summer has left the soil – around April.

Watsonia Meriana - Bugle Lily

To get the best from this bulb, plant them where you can enjoy their glorious display. They are ideal for border in full view from the house, or in containers on the patio. They love a sunny spot in cool, well-drained soil, but also do well in partial shade. Before planting dig the bed over to about the depth of a spade and add a generous amount of compost. Each corm produces three or four erect, plants that measure up to 60cm tall.

GOOD TO KNOW: Certain spring-flowering bulbs don’t fare well in areas with excessive UV radiation, preferring cool soil. Avoid areas such as long driveways, paths or sunny walls unless you can provide some form of protection from the heat.

Muscari - Grape Hyacinth

Vibrant shades of purple and green offer a bold contrast of colour in beds and borders. The foliage is grasslike, narrow and fleshy, making it easy to rake through the plants to keep them looking neat during the 3 to 4-week blooming season. Dig the soil and loosen to a depth of 20cm before placing the bulbs 3cm below ground level and about 5cm apart. Grape hyacinth is very rewarding that multiplies swiftly when the right soil is right and when watered regularly.

GOOD TO KNOW: Different bulbs need to be planted at different depths and spaced accordingly -  so be sure to carefully read the planting instructions on the pack.

Sparaxis and Tritonia

Firm favourites due to their beauty, ease of planting and reliability. Sparaxis and Tritonia are at home in any garden where they can bask in the sun. The slender stems hold spikes of little star-shaped, six-petalled flowers and on each wand blooms flowers in a variety of colours, ranging from purple, mauve and blue to red, orange, pink, yellow, cream and white. Plant in soil that drains well and has a light texture. These lovely flowers look stunning clustered together in a border, will make a cheerful rock garden, or brighten up any patio when planted in pots.

GOOD TO KNOW: As with all your bulbs, don’t forget the Three F’s: Water your bulbs for Forty minutes, with a sprinkler, every Four days and don’t Forget.

Freesias

Enjoyed by gardeners for their impressive looks and beautifully sweet fragrance. Freesias are beautiful additions to any garden, whether you cluster them in beds or create a colourful display in containers. Freesias lay dormant during the hot, dry summers, are nurtured by the cooler weather and ample rains of autumn and winter, and then brought to life to show their beauty in spring. Best planted from mid-April to May and you will expect to see these stunning blooms from August to September. Freesias prefer slightly acidic, organic-rich soil with ample drainage but do not require excessive watering; a good rule of thumb is to leave the soil dry for a few days between each watering.

GOOD TO KNOW: For dramatic effect, plant spring-flowering bulbs in large groups or intersperse them with other annuals. Only plant the annuals once the green foliage tips of the bulbs are showing, so that you do not damage the bulbs under the soil.

Brodiaea

With their grass-like foliage and dainty starry bell or funnel-shaped flowers in pale or violet blue, Brodiaea make terrific cut flowers and are happy pot-dwellers. They will also appreciate a home in your garden with a bit of protection and good sunlight. Brodiaea only reach about 30cm in height, so are prettiest when grown in clumps or in lovely natural-looking drifts.

TIPS FOR BUYING BULBS:

1. Shop for fresh, plump bulbs that are in season.

2. Buy bulbs and corms that flower from late spring to early summer.

3. Plan your plantings so that you have harmony in your overall design. Be generous with your bulbs – bits and pieces are not unusually effective while massed plantings have instant appeal.

4. Follow the instructions on the packet for planting.

5. Water regularly to keep the ground a bit damp but do not over water. Too much water will cause bulbs and corms to rot.

6. Feed as green growth appears, when in full flower and after flowering.

images courtesy of Hadeco.

 

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