It is bulb-planting season! How do you choose amongst the hundreds of varieties and colours? The answer is - choose what you like. Choose what makes you happy. Choose lots! Bulbs are great at cheering up the dreary early spring, and providing little dots of colour. So, unless you are working to a very strict planting design, scatter them around, and plant them where they fall. Pro tip - do not do this with the very tiny ones - you will never find them all!
In bulb-planting season, garden centres are full of lots of choices. When there is a big bin full of bulbs in front of you - how do you pick the best? Look for the largest in the bin, that are firm, with no sign of mould or rot. Any that show signs of damage, squish when you pick them up, or are small or shrivelled - throw ‘em back!
Store them in a cool, dark place until you are ready to plant - which is around now for most bulbs - but do check on the packet.
I am not a fan of naturalising in lawns, as very few people can resist the urge to mow before the leaves have fully died down, weakening the bulbs. I like to see them in beds and they are the few things I will plant in a pot. Put them wherever you can fit them in the flowerbed - they are fine beneath deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves in winter) as they will be up and out before the new leaves grow, so shade is not a problem. In pots, try planting ‘lasagna’ style - that is, smaller bulbs on top, over progressively larger bulbs. Offset them so they are not growing directly underneath each other, and enjoy successional flowering in one pot!
Different bulbs need different depths. Small bulbs such as crocus and snowdrops like to be about 5cm under the soil. Larger bulbs such as daffodils and tulips need to be deeper - around 10-15cms. Alliums go even deeper! Make sure you break up any compacted soil before planting, and firm them in well. Try to point the roots downwards…but bulbs will sort themselves out if little helpers are not quite sure what the roots look like!
It is easy to forget where you have planted bulbs before they come up, so a few markers will help, or even a metal plant protector loosely pushed into the soil around them. Try to avoid cutting off the leaves when they wither - and do not tie them in knots - this prevents the plant gathering the energy it needs for next year. Bulbs in pots can be lifted and stored in the potting shed until replanting next year - just make sure the mice do not get them!