Planting Bulbs – Essential Gardening Guide to Blooming Bulbs
In general there are three different ways of planting bulbs in the garden: they may be used either in formal bedding schemes, in beds and borders among other plants, or else allowed to naturalise themselves in, wood-land or selected areas of borders.
Hyacinths andare the most popular blooming bulbs for spring display in formal bedding schemes. Daffodil bulbs are used to a certain extent, but are really better suited to large borders. By careful selection of varieties it is possible to have in flower from March until late May, while by a similarly careful selection of tulip varieties it is possible to have these in bloom from the end of April until early June. There can be no doubt at all that for a really striking effect in massed planting schemes pride of place must go to the tulip. The earliest to flower have an average height of ten to fifteen inches: the early flowering doubles, which follow next in season, are slightly shorter, while the best of all the bedding tulips, the ‘Triumph’ or early flowering ‘Darwin’ tulips, are rather taller, having an average height of about eighteen to twenty-two inches. The late ‘Darwin’ or cottage tulips come last in the succession of blooms.
Hyacinth bulbs come into their own in formal bedding schemes in small borders. The flowers themselves, even in the double forms, and their presentation above the half-grown leaves, is itself rather formal.
Daffodil bulbs, although limited in their range of colour, have a glory all their own, and are rightly prized as the harbingers of spring. By and large they do not lend themselves well to formal bedding schemes, and are much better planted in bold groups in beds, borders or lawns. In large gardens the groups need to be of twenty or thirty bulbs to each group, while ineight to sixteen bulbs to each group is probably sufficient.
In general, where blooming bulbs are being used in formal bedding schemes it is better to confine each bed to a single genus, be it tulips, daffodils or hyacinths. In less formal schemes it is well worth while mixing the genera, but keeping each genera within its own clearly defined area. Hyacinths should always be planted at the front of any such scheme, while the taller growing daffodils or tulips should occupy the centre. Totally informal schemes can be made by mixing the different genera, but in general these are neither so pleasing nor so striking.
The planting of blooming bulbs should not be confined to the beds and borders. They should also be planted in the lawns, under trees and, in larger gardens, in the orchards Where blooming flower bulbs are used in this way the general idea is to gain a ‘natural’ effect, as though the bulbs just happened to be growing there anyway. There is only one way to achieve the sort of haphazard effect that is found where bulbs really grow wild, and that is to take a handful of bulbs and toss them into the air in the general direction of where you want them to grow, and then to plant them precisely where they fall. Once planted they should be left in the ground for several years to increase naturally.
Many are suitable for naturalising in this way, and the smaller-growing species such as Narcissus triandus (the angels’ tears daffodil), Narcissus cyclamineus and Narcissus bulbocodium are ideal. All the species mentioned seed themselves freely and soon naturalise in situations that suit them. Crocuses, both spring and autumn flowering, and snowdrops are also suitable for naturalising.
It is particularly important never to mow where blooming bulbs have been naturalised until all the leaves have died down – usually about mid-June. The reason for this is that the leaves of the bulbs continue to build up the new bulb for the following season’s flowering right up until the time they turn yellow and die. If they are removed before their natural cycle of growth is over the bulb is weakened and the next season’s flowering imperilled. Similarly, where bulbs are grown in formal bedding schemes they must be allowed to finish their natural cycle of growth. It is always best, if possible, to leave the bulbs in the ground until their leaves have withered, but if they have to be lifted before completing their growth cycle they should be replanted, immediately in some other part of the garden and allowed to finish their growing season there.
Where daffodil bulbs are planted in borders it is possible to overcome this problem, provided that theis sufficiently well-drained, by planting the bulbs a foot deep: subsequent cultivations can then be carried out above the bulbs without disturbing or damaging them. The bulbs should be lifted every three or four years, divided and replanted: if they are left in the ground longer they may begin to deteriorate.