Growing Bulbs for the Garden

Hardy bulbs are a great asset to the garden, for they provide some of the earliest and the latest blooms, beginning with snowdrops and winter aconites and finishing with autumn cyclamen and meadow saffrons.

The best display is in the spring when crocuses, tulips and narcissi bloom. These are followed by the alliums and camassias in early summer, and then the English, Spanish and Dutch irises. After these come the white Galtonia candicans and the montbretias, and finally the autumn bulbs which give colour to the garden before winter sets in.

Bulbs may be used in many different ways — for bedding out, in flower borders and rock gardens, between shrubs and under small trees. Many can be naturalized in rough grass or on the lawn verges.

The term ‘bulb’ has been used generally in this section to include both bulbs and corms.

By cutting a tulip bulb and a crocus corm in half the difference between a bulb and a corm can be seen.

The bulb is made up of a number of fleshy scales like an onion, with a bud at the bottom.

The corm is a solid mass of material, mainly starch, with a bud at the top.

There are, of course, slight variations of this general pattern.


Because it is better to buy the cheaper well-tried bulbs until an idea is formed of what grows best in the garden and what is most pleasing in colour, form and habit, the more expensive bulbs to be found in catalogues are not mentioned in this website. If the garden is small, start with just a few of any particular variety, say a dozen small bulbs such as the crocus and half a dozen larger ones such as the tulip. In this way it will be possible to discover which bulbs thrive best, and the collection can be enlarged year by year.


Bulbs normally like a good, well-drained loam. If the soil in which they are to be grown is not good, add well-rotted manure, well-rotted compost, hop manure or other organic material. Never add fresh farmyard manure because it is not sufficiently decayed. If the soil is very heavy add whatever manure is available, and always add coarse sand or grit. In addition dust the surface with bone meal sufficient to whiten it, and fork in before planting. (Apply bone meal as a top dressing each winter to bulbs which are not lifted.) Proprietary manures, specially compounded for bulbs, can also be added. Do not use peat or leaf mould, except for certain shade-lovers, such as cyclamen. For the wild species bone meal alone is recommended as a manure.

Plant the bulbs, with the exception of the shade-lovers, where they will get all the sun possible, and where they will be sheltered from draughts and cold winds.

Where bulbs are to be planted in grass, or when hundreds are to be planted, use a tool known as a ‘bulb-planter’. Other-wise make the holes with a trowel, but these holes must be flat at the bottom so that the bulb sits on the soil and not on a pocket of air.

Most bulbs will increase in number if their conditions of cultivation are satisfactory. After three to five years lift and divide the clumps, otherwise there will be few flowers. Do this as soon as the leaves have died down, or better still, after the leaves have turned half yellow, as it is then easier to see where the bulbs are. Replant some in the same place, and the others where there is room. Dust the ground lightly with bone meal before planting.

All the bulbs mentioned here are easy to grow provided they are given reasonable care.

06. September 2013 by admin
Categories: Gardening History, Plant Biology, Top Tips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Growing Bulbs for the Garden


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