There might still be plenty of foliage and flower in the garden at the moment, but in the dark days of January and February you’ll be yearning for some colour.
There might still be plenty of foliage and flower in the garden at the moment, but in the dark days of January and February you’ll be yearning for some colour. Thankfully, garden centres racks are currently dripping with packets of spring-flowering bulbs, from the earliest snowdrops and crocus, through daffodils and fritillaries, to tulips and alliums. And the bulb growers have done all the hard work for you, nurturing them so that when you buy them they’ll have flowerbuds pre-formed inside – all you have to do is plant them and you’re guaranteed an eye-popping display.
For maximum impact it is important not to scrimp when buying spring-flowering bulbs. They’re easy to pack into pots, larger containers and flowerbeds where their massed blooms will create bold blocks of colour. And with so much choice, it’s easy to get creative in colourful ways. Many gardeners love harmonious combinations of cream, pink and mauve flowers, and you could also try warmer shades of yellow, orange and red. However, the strong hues of spring bulbs lend themselves to more adventurous mixes, so try teaming strong, rich reds with sumptuous purple, or sunny yellow together with sky blue – the palette is endless. Even if you aren’t a colour schemer, a riotous, jelly-bean mixture will be equally effective at welcoming spring.
But perhaps the best way to enjoy a long season of colour from spring-flowering bulbs is to create your own floral ‘lasagne’, whether it is in pots or garden borders. This simple technique involves planting different varieties in multiple layers, starting with the largest bulbs, such as daffodils, alliums or tulips, at the lowest level and grading up through dwarf narcissi, muscari and fritillaries to the smallest at the top, including crocus, chionodoxa and snowdrops.
Cover each layer of bulbs with compost or soil before planting the next one, and use the planting depths on the back of the packets as a guide. If in doubt, then measure the height of the bulb and then plant at least three times as deep. Three to five layers works well and by choosing bulbs with different flowering times – something to bloom in each month – you’ll have colour to coax you out of the depths of winter and into the warmth of early summer.
With all this promise of what’s to come next season, it’s important to have some interim colour in the run up to Christmas, so plant some winter pansies, polyanthus, bellis or mini cyclamen as the topping to your lasagne of bulbs. It’ll be a recipe for success.