Home Plants Spring bulbs

Spring bulbs

Fragrant daffodils, narcissi, and jonquils

I thought digging up the lawn was hard work – try planting 150 daffodils in heavy clay/gravel with a bad back!

My long-handled bulb planter did its job – they dig a circular hole, then the clod of earth inside is pushed out by the next hole, and so on.

I wanted some early season scent and no doubles – nothing too fancy. This is what I planted:

  • Minnow: Cream and yellow flowers. 15-20cm tall and produces two to four dainty little soft yellow flowers per stem. Well known for its ability to increase rapidly. Fragrant. Flowers March/April.
  • Pacific Coast: A yellow version of Minnow. Fragrant. Height 15-20cm. Flowers March/April.
  • Sweetness: Jonquil type, bold-shaped cups, golden yellow throughout, up to five flowers per stem. Height 40cm. Very fragrant. Flowers March/April.
  • Tete a Tete: Dwarf variety with up to three star-shaped flowers per stem, white with cream trumpets. Ht. 15cm. Flowers March.
  • Sun Disc: Broad, overlapping perianth segments, which fade from buttery yellow to rich cream as they mature, surround a flattened, darker yellow corona. Each stem produces between one and three scented flowers. Height 18cm. Flowers April.
  • Triandrus Thalia: Fragrant single trumpet Narcissus, multi-headed, 30cm, flowers April/May.

Please note: these flowering times have proved to be rubbish – Thalia bloomed in March one year, Tete a Tete started in February, Sun Disc in May. It’s a lottery.

Tulips’ blaze of glory

It’s a story of diminishing returns with big, showy tulips – magnificent first year, the display getting steadily worse with each passing season.

I treat tulips like annuals, growing them in pots, as they don’t do well in my cold, clay soil, and replant every autumn (usually November, to avoid the tulip fire virus).

I fancied a fiery orange theme (with a contrast), so this is what I chose:

  • Prinses Irene (single early): A Triumph tulip I’ve grown before, with electric orange petals and purple/rust coloured stripes. They are sweetly scented and have short, sturdy stems, making them ideal for windy gardens. Flowers from late March, very long lasting. Plant 10-15cm deep in well-drained, fertile soil – ideal for pots, height 40cm.
  • Black Knight (single late): Almost black, flowering from April to May and a perfect partner to El Nino. It reaches a height of 50-60cm. Plant in full sun or partial shade in well-drained, fertile soil.
  • El Nino (Triumph): This colour-changing tulip begins golden yellow and orange, with salmon-rose appearing as wild stripes or speckles that intensify and deepen with age. No two look the same, and each one stands on a contrasting yellow-green stem with broad lance-shaped leaves. Flowers April to May, height 40cm.
  • Curly Sue: purple, fringed, flowers April-May, 50cm.
  • Lambada: orange, fringed, also flowering at the same time, 40cm.

Goddamn volunteers…

Tulip Pinocchio
Tulip Pinocchio in the bulb’s first year

However, refusing to lie down and die this year are bulbs from previous seasons which I’d forgotten about but are making a liar out of me and flowering in profusion.

They’re the pure white Diana and dwarf red Pinocchio, which has variegated leaves and has had some Euphorbia of unknown parentage dropped on top of their pot.

Makes quite a nice pairing – a happy accident. I like it when that happens…

No need to plant again with species tulips

You can beat having to replace tulips by growing their smaller species varieties, hailing from mountainous regions in Central Asia.

They’re extremely tough and can be left in the ground where they will come back year after year, forming good-sized clumps.

All they need is a sunny spot with reasonably fertile, free-draining soil. Plant November-December, 10-15cm deep and 10-15cm apart.

Remove the flowers after they have faded and apply a balanced liquid fertiliser for a month before they die down.

  • Tulipa Little Beauty: upright bowl-shaped flowers. The hot pink petals often have a green flush on their outer edges, while the inside eye is a mix of creamy white and rich blue, 15cm tall.
  • Tulipa saxatilis Lilac Wonder: mauve-pink flowers, with a paler interior and a luminous, well-defined eye, 25cm tall.
  • Tulipa tarda: Lance-shaped green leaves, which in early to mid-spring are crowned with white-tipped yellow flowers, 15cm tall.

Crocuses that croaked it

The stunning display from 75 crocus corms, thanks to George

Ever since I moved into this house in the late 1980s, one solitary white crocus has forced its way through every spring under the whitebeam. I haven’t the heart to get rid of it.

As an apology for a late order, last autumn I was sent a bag of mixed crocus. Not what I would have picked, but why not? I planted all 75 of them near the greenhouse – a little colour on a winter’s day.

No such luck. George fettled all but about six of them, such is his love for the friable new soil there. Ah, well. They cost me nowt.