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Bulbs for every Month of the Year

Bulbs really are the gift that keeps on giving. They are very undemanding. Most of them flower for years with practically no maintenance. They come in all shapes and sizes from the stately Mediterranean Bells (Nectaroscordum)to colourful little crocuses. And there is a bulb for nearly every month of the year!

After the winter solstice the first bulbs to emerge from the ground are snowdrops (Galanthus)  and winter aconites (Eranthis). The winter aconite is a cheerful buttercup yellow flower which often appears before the snowdrops. Both of them look charming clustered around the base of tree trunks but thrive practically anywhere.

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Snowdrops look great in groups

In February you can look forward to dainty little species Iris which prefer well-drained sunny spots. They are perfect miniature versions of the large irises and a delightful splash of colour while winter is still with us.

 Iris 'Harmony' Crocus tomasinianus
Species Iris ‘Harmony’ and Crocus Tomasinianus

With March comes an avalanche of bulb activity. Easy-going crocuses, particularly suited to lawns, come first followed by the daisy-like flowers of windflowers (Anemone blanda) which have pretty, ferny foliage, unlike many bulbs. Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa) is rarely seen but very easy to grow with star-shaped white or blue flowers and obliging minimal foliage. March is when the daffodils first appear. We are spoilt for choice with daffodils but one of my early favourites is the little Minnow which has soft, yellow flowers. Clients sometimes tell me they don’t like yellow flowers but daffodils can come in white, cream and a soft cool yellow which is very different from the often disliked strident yellow of some daffodils. Beautiful white daffodils include Thalia and Mount Hood, both of which appear in April. Baby Moon is another April daffodil that is only 15cm high and great for edging the border.

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Beautiful white daffodil ‘Mt Hood’

Early tulips also appear in April. Tulips tend to tail off after a couple of years and many people recommend replanting every year. I find replanting every two or three years is sufficient. The nice thing about replanting tulips is that you can ring the changes. Tulips are a chance to be bold. They are not around for long so you can play with some vibrant colours to give you a lift at what can be a rainy, grey time of year.  A wonderful deep crimson scarlet is Couleur Cardinal which blazes across the garden in late April. Lily-flowered tulips, flowering in May, are very graceful. I have often used the orange Ballerina and White Triumphator.  May is the traditional month for tulips and a popular favourite is the purple-black Queen of the Night – order early, though, suppliers run out quickly! A black and white mix, use Maureen for the white, can look dramatic. Another rarely seen bulb that flowers from late April through May is the Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum Umbellatum). They are not fussy, liking either sun or partial shade, with white starry flowers.

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Tulips ‘Purple Prince’ and ‘Ballerina’ looking great with Anemone Blanda and daffodil ‘Tete a Tete’

Most gardens run out of bulbs as they enter June but the fun doesn’t have to stop at the end of May. Dutch Iris are incredibly easy-going small bulbs that are easy to plant and provide weeks of beautiful colour. Alliums start in May, for example the popular Purple Sensation, but different cultivars will carry on into July. The flower heads of the larger types, such as Schubertii, persist in the border for months. Alliums are a popular sculpture subject but the genuine article is just as beautiful and much cheaper!

 Iris YQ with Iris Purple Sensation
Dutch Iris ‘Yellow Queen’ planted with Iris ‘Purple Sensation’

There is a quiet time in August bulb-wise but in September the cyclamens appear, which are corms strictly speaking. Cyclamen hederifolium, the ivy-leaved cyclamen, flowers from September to November. The attractive silvery foliage makes good groundcover, once it is established.

And then it is nearly time for January and winter aconites!

The wonderful thing about these bulbs is that they can all be planted at the same time in one big push. I don’t plant bulbs too early because if you have a sunny October they can get confused and start too soon. I have had success with bulbs planted as late as December but I wouldn’t recommend it. Frozen or saturated ground is not great for bulb planting. The ideal time is mid-October. For maximum impact plant bulbs in groups of at least twenty. Scatter them on the ground and then plant them where they land for a natural effect.

A great bulb supplier is http://www.gee-tee.co.uk/ . You can only buy in bulk but why would you buy less than ten of these little beauties?

Michelle Wake in Frome nr Bath, Somerset, UK on Houzz

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