Bulbs are among the best value for money performers of the spring garden, bringing glorious colour to even the most challenging of environments year after year with precious little effort on your part. From the first snowdrops of early spring, through glorious carpets of crocus and narcissus, to the allium pompoms of early summer, our flower bulbs for sale provide freshness, fragrance and colour – and often when little else is happening in the garden. And they have long been admired the world over for their ornamental values...
From the Ottoman Empire
As increasing wealth allowed more people to spend time at leisure, many bulbs were introduced to the West for purely ornamental purposes from Turkey and the Ottoman Empire, where the Sultans of the day adored the elaborate displays of naturalised flowering bulbs in their gardens. Indeed, one of the most effective ways of using bulbs is to naturalise them in grass: alongside pathways; up and over mounds; around tree trunks; and under the feet of hedgerows. It's a look that's really easy to achieve and requires almost no maintenance. Early flowering bulbs are most suited to this treatment, and planted in large, informal swathes they look fantastic.
The 'Pickwick' crocus has an almost hypnotic effect with
it's striped petals and vivid stamen
In early spring a grassy bank can become a carpet of colour under a riotous mix of crocuses. Crocus tommasinianus is very early, sometimes flowering in January and is treasured by beekeepers and solitary bees alike. Following hard on its heels are plantings of golden 'Yellow Mammoth' and pure white 'Joan of Arc' stand vivid and proud against a subtle violet-blue backdrop of varieties such as 'Remembrance' and 'Flower Record'. And these are then followed by the glorious Tricolour Crocus - Crocus Sieberi Tricolor to round off a colourful start to the year. Crocuses associate very well with Snowdrops and with Winter Aconites. Plant a variety of each and you will have a carpet of colour from January into March. Never ones to forget our cherished wildlife, crocuses are also a fantastic early source of nectar for bees stretching their wings after winter.
It's impossible not to stop and stare at the pink centre
and pure white perianth of the 'Pink Pride' daffodil
Daffodils work best when naturalised in contrasting mixes. And there is little else better to lift your spirits then bring a few stems of cut daffodils into the house – and really signal the start of spring. The striking orange-centred 'Sempre Avanti' when planted amongst the pale 'Ice Follies' is a sight to behold. And more unusual and exotic blooms can also be added to the mix, such as the blousy double 'Cheerfulness' and the amazing pink-centred 'Pink Pride'.
Looking for all the world like they're speeding through
the wind is the 'Jetfire' dwarf narcissus
For a more textured and refined appearance, look to the delicate daffodil-like blooms of dwarf Narcissi. They are a real delight planted en masse through lawns or borders – but their diminutive size lends them perfectly to growing in containers too. 'Minnow' is a 20cm Narcissi with up to five delightful blooms on each tiny stem. And 'February Gold' is a classic early flowering variety with an elegant nodding head and swept back 'reflex' petals.
What could be more evocative than a woodland
floor carpeted in nodding Bluebells?
Bulbs also have a major part to play in the woodland garden so adored and celebrated by the great Beth Chatto. Under a dry shady canopy of trees and shrubs it is possible to create a stunning natural looking planting that can really brighten those dark corners of the garden where little else is able to grow whilst bringing in a little piece of our native countryside. For larger areas of deciduous woodland vast plantings of English bluebells make a beautiful bold statement in April and May. And to help illuminate the darkest areas of the woodland garden a carpet of white in the form of Snowdrops, followed later by Wood Anemones can do wonders to create the illusion of light, while if you have a damp area in dappled shade the Snakeshead Fritillary is a charming guest in shades of white and purple.
Bold and architectural, bright and upright, the energy
of a drift of mixed tulips is undeniable
The importance of bulbs as an addition to the beds and borders as well as in containers cannot be underestimated. One of the most popular bulbs for this purpose is the tulip – and there are thousands of different varieties to choose from. With a bit of planning it is possible to have tulips blooming from April right through to June. Ranging in height from a mere 20cm up to a whopping 80cm there is a tulip for every pot and position. Their flowers too are wonderfully varied; single or double, fringed, parrot flowered or star-shaped and in every colour imaginable. They can combine well within any planting scheme and they make gorgeous cut flowers for the house. Contemporary plantings have often favoured the dark, rich intensity of 'black' varieties such as 'Queen of Night' which work wonderfully when surrounded by paler contrasting blooms such as 'Golden Apeldoorn'.
The unmistakable purple pompom of the allium.
This one is Allium 'Aflatunense'
Another star of the border is the allium. Flowering from late spring into early summer they provide valuable height (up to 2 meters!) and they also provide a long lasting architectural element to borders. Their exploding star-shaped seed heads still look stunning through autumn and into the winter and they make a lovely addition to a flower arrangement. Their neat spheres mean they can look at home in both immaculate contemporary gardens through to more informal cottage gardens. A true favourite is Allium hollandicum 'Purple Sensation' due to its rich intense colour; for contrast mix in some white Allium hollandicum 'Nigrum'. For something a little different try Nectaroscordum siculum (Sicilian honey garlic) – a splendid allium with delicate fairy-like bell flowers in subtle shades of creams, pinks and greens.
Planting times and locations
Most bulbs are planted between September and October, however Tulips prefer to be planted a little later, in November. Make sure you choose a bulb suitable for your site; tulips like to see the sun and need good drainage, whereas bluebells and snowdrops prefer shade in the summer. Whatever the bulb, make sure the ground is well prepared with organic matter and a dressing of general purpose fertiliser. As a general rule bulbs like to be planted at three times their own depth and at least twice their width apart. When planting bulbs to naturalise them into grass, first lift a small area of turf, then add some fertiliser and fork it over with a handfork. Now plant the bulb (taking care that it's the right way up – invariably this will be pointy end, but if you're really unsure, pop them on their side). Then carefully heel the turf back into position, and let the anticipation build... The only (weird) maintenance that is necessary after that is to water them if we have a dry winter as they grow through the cold months, going into domancy between April and June. But when was the last dry winter.... SIt back and watch your garden grow.
Flower bulbs from Ashridge Nurseries
Top quality, premium flower bulbs – and fantastic prices too.
- Allium bulbs
- Daffodils & narcissi
- and Mixed flower bulb collections.