It is fast approaching that time of the year when bulbs are planted. So now is a great time to plan what bulbs to buy. Here are a few suggestions to give a floriferous display from spring right through to summer.
Bringing some welcome colour early in spring are the dwarf irises standing around 15 cm tall. The royal blue flowers of I. reticulata 'Harmony' put on a wonderful display from February to March naturalised in a sunny spot in grass, at the front of a sunny border or in pots, if like me, you have acidic soil. Give them neutral or alkaline moist, well-drained soil and they'll be happy year-on-year.
If like me you prefer the small, demure pale yellow or ivory flowered daffodils, try Narcissus 'Cotinga', a cyclamineus type with swept back petals. It is small (25 cm) and flowers early to mid-spring. However, having said that, I really love the multi-headed ivory N. 'Thalia' that stands 40 cm tall and is a great cut flower. All will grow in full sun or partial shade, in moist, well-drained soil.
A warming tulip for April is Tulipa 'Jenny' with it's sunset colours that stands around 35 cm tall. Like the irises, tulips prefer well-drained neutral or alkaline soil. For those of you with acidic soil, layer the tulips in pots with earlier flowering bulbs to give you a succession of interest. They will be happy in full sun or partial shade.
I saw Allium 'Cameleon', a small ornamental onion, at Chelsea this year and it caught my eye because of its pretty, unassuming presence. It flowers in June and as it is small (would look great interspersed among herbaceous perennials that have yet to get going at the front of the border.
For those of you with damper soil to contend with, try Fritillaria meleagris 'Plum and White Mixed', which will thrive in heavier, fertile, moist soils - in fact it needs soil to remain moist over the summer months. It flowers in April/May and will be happy in sun or part-shade naturalising in grass (as long as it is not cut until after the flower has set seed in June/July) or along the front of a border.
Now that you have had some inspiration, pop along to your local horticultural society bulb sale, which will be happening very soon, or buy online from nurseries such as www.crocus.co.uk or www.sarahraven.com
Rachel Bailey, a garden designer and gardener in Scotland.