Beautiful bulbs and spring colour

Kirsty McLean offers some easy easy to bring colour to the garden this spring

Early-flowering bulbs are a joy to behold because they signal the end of winter and the coming of spring, bringing with them the hope of light and warmth. 

They are easy to grow and incredibly versatile, offering quick results. They are a great way to start gardening with kids and can be planted in containers, borders or in the grass. Generally bulbs need well drained soil that doesn’t become waterlogged in winter. Planting depths vary depending on their size and species, but ‘rule of thumb’ is that most bulbs can be planted at approximately 3 times their own height.  

Growing in containers is space-saving and gives portable colour. Your pot should have drainage holes and cover these with gravel or broken pots or crockery. Use a good quality general purpose compost and mix in a generous handful of grit/sand to improve drainage. The bulb packet will tell you all you need to know about planting, positioning and when you can expect flowers. Water regularly as they begin to grow and once the foliage begins to die back you can gradually reduce watering. This is such a satisfying thing to do with children because of the speed with which you see growth.

Sometimes people find their garden is dull and uninteresting during the winter. Perhaps we are inside more and the days are shorter, we just don’t notice the wonders that are creating interest, form and scent in our gardens.

Bulbs are not the only way to welcome spring with colour. Viburnum Tinus begins flowering in October and lasts through to spring and Helleborus Orientalis, which has the prettiest of pink-tinged, cream blooms until April. The evergreen, variegated Skimmia ‘Magic Marlot’ will grow in partial shade and flowers the entire year but the clusters of dome-shaped cream, flower buds change to red in winter becoming white, highly fragrant flowers in spring.  Viburnum bodnantense flowers through the winter and will continue well into spring when it comes into leaf by which time all the Pieris will have come into flower followed by Rhododendrons and Azaleas as the garden really comes to life.

The red or green stems of the dogwoods (Cornus), the interesting shapes of contorted hazel (Corylus) or the texture and form of topiary such as Box spirals, conifers or Bay tree lollipop forms, can cut a dash in the garden planted either in the ground or in containers as a feature or focal point.

So how will our gardens shape up as the gardening season starts? After the
stresses and strains of the pandemic we all need colour in our lives! Planting schemes are moving away from the tasteful pastels and muted colours that have been in vogue for the past decade towards something much bolder and enlivening. 

The over-arching trend this year will be the movement towards wildlife-friendly, plant-led gardens that enable everyone to do their bit for the environment. Climate change brings more understanding of the need for biodiversity, so planting schemes are likely to be designed more for pollinators than human beings.

Here are my picks for long-flowering (July – Sept) and joyous, vibrant colour combinations that ensure happy bees and insects.  

Red Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Fat Domino’, planted with Echinacea ‘Sombrero Hot Coral’, add in the incredibly long-lowering Lysimachia atropurpurea ‘Beaujolais,’ (which flowers from May to Sept!) and compliment the arrangement with the deep purple of Salvia Amistad and the vibrancy of Rudbeckia hirta ‘Cappuccino’ then cool it down with Achillea millefolium ‘Lilac Beauty’ and Thalictrum delavayi. Happy Gardening!

Show Comments ↓