Not all the plants that are called bulbs are true bulbs. Some are actually corms, tubers or rhizomes. But they are all equally easy to plant and grow. It is best to buy and plant them the moment they are available, choosing fresh, firm, healthy stock. Avoid any spring bulbs that have come into premature growth by putting out green shoots, or which are soft, hollow or blemished.
The planting depths for bulbs will vary, and the best guide is the size of the bulb. Dig a hole that is twice the length of the bulb when the soil is on the heavy side, and three times its length when it is lighter and more free-draining.
After flowering, leave the foliage to die down naturally. This takes about six weeks, or four with smaller bulbs like crocuses. During this time the plant stores energy for next season’s display. If the bulbs’ foliage is cut too soon, next season’s display will be adversely affected. When the bulbs are growing in a lawn, it will mean you have to wait until they have died down before mowing the grass in that area.
In this article you can read about the most beautiful spring bulbs.
Anemone blanda. Commonly known as the windflower, anemones are solitary flowers, about 2,5cm (1in) or more across. They have 10 to 15 white, pale blue or dark blue, sometimes mauve and pink petals. The attractive leaves are fern-like. They associate beautifully with primroses and all early dwarf daffodils, and are excellent in garden borders, beneath a tree or in pots.
Cyclamen persicum. The pink, red or white flowers have darker staining towards the mouth, and the heart-shaped leaves are often patterned. Many cultivars have been bred, and there are various shades and sizes to choose from, but look for those with a sweet scent and attractively marked foliage.
Erythronium dens-canis. A pretty spring flower, dog’s tooth violet has dainty, swept-back petals that may be white, pink or lilac, and prominent anthers. The leaves have blue and green markings. Plant in borders or among short fine grasses.
Fritillaria imperialis. An impressive flower, often known as the crown imperial, it produces a stout stem topped by impressive umbels of 3 to 6 pendent bells, which a crown of glossy, leaf-like bracts emerges. Both the bulbs and flowers have a distinctive foxy smell.
Fritillaria imperialis in combination with yellow tulips
Hyacinthus. Commonly known as the hyacinth, this is one of the most fragrant of all spring-flowering bulbs. H. orientalis ‘Amethyst’ has lilac-amethyst, waxy, tubular, bell-shaped flowers, which are richly scented and are borne on stout, leafless stems. H. orientalis ‘Hollyhock’ has the double, crimson-red, tubular, bell-shaped and richly scented flowers. It will combine beautifully with blue polyanthus primroses or perhaps with Tanacetum parthenium ‘Aureum’.
Muscari. The genus, known by the common name of grape hyacinth, embraces 30 species of bulbs from the Mediterranean to south-western Asia. The best known is Muscari armeniacum, whose cultivars are pretty and very useful in borders, grassland and all sizes of containers.
Blue muscari among other spring flowers
Tulipa. Tulips come in all shapes and sizes, with the smallest miniature kind growing about 10cm (4in) high, and the tallest tulip being about 60cm (2ft) high. Dig them up when they have died down, and store the bulbs in a dry airy place over summer for replanting in late fall. Every spring garden needs some tulips. They provide fantastic flashes of color, from soft hues to brasher, eye-catching combinations. Scores are single-colored but hundreds have two colors. Early spring tulips are T. ‘Corona’, T. ‘Madame Lefeber’ and T. ‘Peach Blossom’.