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Tips, Tools and Suggestions for Planting Spring Bulbs

It’s always a lovely feeling of satisfaction when your bulbs are snugly planted in their beds, it’s just a shame that the results won’t be seen until next year. All gardening is an investment in the future but after a day of popping spring bulbs underground all you get immediately is backache! To ease the latter, it might be worth investing in a few key tools, especially if you have a large border or meadow to fill.

Planting Tools

First up, a Dibber (Kent & Stowe £7.99) is a handy tool that makes  holes in the ground so seeds/small bulbs can be planted in the right place and allows you to mark out the gaps between them. Rings on its edge helps you measure the planting depth. Alternatively, a Small Bulb Planter (Kent & Stowe £4.99) can also be used on small bulbs such as Crocus, Snowdrops and Iris. It removes a 4cm core from the earth. For slightly bigger bulbs/seed potatoes/bedding plants, you may need to use a Hand Bulb Planter (Kent & Stowe £7.99). This will allow you to plant to a diameter of 6cm with a 4in measurement scale to ensure accurate planting depth.

Investing in some Bulb Baskets (£3.50 for a pack of 3 x 26cm trays or a pack of 2 x 30cm trays) is worth it. They are ideal for drying and storing your bulbs until you plant out or storing them once you have dug them up at the end of the season, ready for next year – once the flowers have finished simply lift out of the ground and place out of sight in the shed or garage.

To ensure your bulbs remain strong and healthy pour some Bulb Fibre (Taylors Bulb Fibre 10L Bag £3.49 each, 2 for £5) directly into the pot/container and place your bulbs two thirds of the way up from the base. The fibre supplies balanced nutrients to help establish roots and promote vigorous growth.

Popular bulbs for large areas and naturalising

Narcissus ‘Pheasants Eye’ is a classic. It’s highly scented and late flowering and look particularly nice mass planted in clumps all along the border. ‘Pacific Rim’ and ‘Spring Pride’ will also stand out in a crowd. Dot them with little spots of bright colour such as Anemone coronaria ‘Sylphide’. To continue the spots of colour further into the season, before everything is cut to the ground in late September, scatter some Verbena bonariensis seedlings among the bulbs (T&M £2.99 a pack).

If you have a grassy area that you would like to plant bulbs on, try Gladiolus byzantinus – a delicate magenta variety that works well with grass because its hardy and has a strong stem. With up to 20 flowers per stem this beauty makes an ideal cut flower in late summer. Dot among them some dark blue Camassia quamash which is slightly smaller than its other family members, and will naturalise in long grass and provide a blue haze type effect. These also look great beside ponds and are another flower that looks good in a vase.

Other good bulbs for extending colour later into the season are Lilies, Anemone blanda (such as ‘Charmer’) and English Bluebells.

Gladiolus byzantinus, Camassia quamash and Anemone coronaria ‘Sylphide’

Finish your day’s work with a pack of beautiful double ‘La Belle Epoque’ Tulips, described by Sarah Raven as “coffee mousse, flushed with pink”. These will look fabulous gracing your patio in May, planted in one of our Ancient Potsfrom Woodlodge. Perfect for the romantics among you.

Plus, pack a huge ceramic pot full of giant Amaryllis like ‘Picotee’ buried in good quality compost up to their shoulders. Store them in a warm, dark spot in the house, water little and often until a bud appears. If planted in November (latest), they’ll hopefully all be up and flowering in time to cheer you up after Christmas.  Alternatively, get them planted soon if you want them in time for Christmas!

Lastly (and most importantly), reward your hard work with a well-earned G&T at this beautiful time of year!

Bulb Tips

– Store bulbs in a cool, airy shed or garage.
– Improve drainage by planting on a layer of grit.
– Time it right. October is the best time to plant daffodils and November for tulips.
– Bulbs should be planted in a hole two or three times their height.
– Cover the planted area with chicken wire if squirrels are a problem.
– In grass, don’t mow for six weeks after flowering.
– Never tidy away bulb foliage until it has died back completely.
– If you’re not sure which way is up, plant the bulb on its side: it’s stem will find its own way up.
– The traditional time to start forcing Hyacinths into flower is the third week of September, so they flower in time for Christmas. But there is always an excess of goodies at Christmas, so consider forcing bulbs for the lean weeks of January and February instead. Hyacinths will flower 10-12 weeks from potting if kept in a cool, dark room (or under a cardboard box) until they have shoots about 2in tall. ‘Paper White’ Narcissi flower 8-10 weeks from potting and don’t need to be kept in the dark.
– Plant labels may look ugly but are indispensable for marking the position of bulbs whose foliage has died back. A discreet wooden label will prevent the frustration caused by plunging a fork into a border and spearing a clump of your favourite Alliums.