Brighten Up the Garden, Clever Containers & Top Tips

Taken from Lynne’s weekly column ‘Green Scene’ for the Western Mail. 30th September 2017 Leaf_Para_DividerBrighten Up the Garden

Bulb, bulbs, bulbs! That’s what’s been on my mind this week.  I have been gardening – and writing about it – for over 30 years and I still leave planting spring flowering bulbs until the last minute.  It is such an easy and effective way to add colour and interest to your garden and such an easy thing to overlook!

Gardening is mostly about planning ahead – the difference between a bad gardener and a good gardener is usually about 3 weeks, but when it comes to bulbs, it would be nearer 3 months. 

Whether it is planting drifts of daffodils, or planting a few tulips in pots by the back door, I absolutely guarantee that next spring, when you see everyone else’s spring bulbs in all their glory, you will either wish you had done it or be glad that you did!

So, if you only do one thing before the end of the month, make sure it is buy and plant some bulbs. It is just the best way to brighten up even the smallest of areas.

There are so many beautiful varieties to choose from now; from the well-known and natural, to the posh divas of the bulb world. And with a bit of planning, you can have bulb-based flowers from late winter until early summer.

One of my favourites this year (bought in flower in June for a customer) is the Foxtail Lily (Eremurus).  

Eremurus Cleopatra is a vibrant orange foxtail lily, which will start to grow in late winter and spring, usually producing one tall flower spike composed of masses of tiny honey scented blooms. I love them for their drama and height in a border and the fact they will attract pollinators.  You can plant them as bulbs now through until November, which is far more cost effective than buying the plant.

I also love the Camassias with their late spring flowers, which are long lasting.  They are also tall, striking and extremely tolerant of most conditions (including damp areas, where most bulbs will struggle) making them an ideal addition to most gardens.  Also available in various shades of blue, it is the white variety that I love, as they lift a shady or dark area beautifully.

Clever Containers

Lots of unusual containers lend themselves to being planted up with bulbs too. Plant up a pair of old boots, or wellies, for example, and they will give you such a ‘kick’ in the spring.  They also make great creative gifts for Christmas for a keen gardener or for someone who ‘has everything’.  Choose smaller varieties of bulbs for smaller containers, like Narcissus Tete-a-Tete, Crocus, Iris reticulata ‘Edward’, Tulipa humilis and of course snowdrops and hyacinths too.

I have seen all sorts of ingenious container ideas, including teapots and old fashioned kettles, handbags and shopping bags, chairs and sofas, basins and toilets, musical instruments and even a rather large bra. They all looked fabulous ‘in bloom’ and of course you can try to match the container to the recipient if you can!  All you need is a fertile imagination.

And as well as unusual containers, don’t forget unusual bulbs!  Some of the most striking I have seen include Tulipa ‘Ice Cream’, Narcissus ‘Replete’ and Oxalis versicolor (pictured).  Plant these show stoppers close to the house or in window boxes where you will be able to fully appreciate their drama.

Top Tips
  • When planting bulbs in containers, layer them.  Put a layer of compost, then a layer of bulbs and another layer of compost, another layer of bulbs and so on. That way you will get a bloomin’ marvellous amount of flowers, even in the smallest of spaces, and of course you can mix the bulb varieties too.
  • Plant ordinary plastic flower pots up with your favourite bulbs now, and then just dot them around the garden once they start to bloom next spring. You will add instant spot colour and interest and can move them around to suit.
  • When using bulbs to naturalise areas, throw them on the ground randomly and plant where they land, that way you will avoid formal lines and displays.
  • Use splashes of same colour to provide a ‘feel’ or atmosphere – white will look peaceful, yellows uplifting and sunny and reds and oranges, warm.

How many gardeners does it take to change a light bulb?

Just one, but two bulbs as he’ll break the first one by pushing it into the soil. 


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