Bulbs in containers and naturalised in grass.
I ordered tulip, camassia and daffodil bulbs which have been sitting in the garage waiting to go in for several weeks. I should follow my own advice and photograph the garden when the bulbs are in flower so I know where the gaps are, but I didn’t so I decided to put some of the bulbs in pots.
Small pots of 5 or 6 daffodils are easily plunged in the ground next spring to fill in gaps and bigger pots of daffs or tulips can be used as a stand alone display on the patio or as a welcome by the front door. I planted tulips in big plastic pots which I checked would fit inside my more expensive black ceramic containers so I can readily lift them out when they have faded.
Bulbs work really well in pots with their compact root systems and bright colours and for maximum impact I prefer to use one variety per pot. You can mix them if you like for a succession of colour but I prefer to swap the pots over as the flowers fade and put the pots behind the shed for the foliage to die down out of sight. Consider combining the bulbs with low growing perennials eg violas or pansies.
- Place bulbs away from the sides of the pot where there are extremes of heat and dryness.
- Plant potted bulbs much closer then you would in the garden – almost but not quite touching.
- Water little but often. Bulbs like moist but not soggy soil and remember they dry out rapidly in warm weather.
- Keep the pots in a cool dim area eg under trees until the shoots are about 5-10cm tall, then they can be brought out into the sun.
- If pots are in strong light , turn the pots often to keep the stems upright.
If you want to put tulips in the ground the suppliers recommend the taller tulips are lifted each year after the foliage has died back and stored in a cool airy place. The species and shorter tulips can be left in the ground but I find they don’t usually flower as well the following years.
Daffodils and Crocus are the best for naturalising in grass – I think they look wonderful in random clumps rather than regimented rows. They say… throw a handful of bulbs on the grass and plant them where they fall…but that way you have to plant each bulb individually with a trowel or bulb planter and that’s quite hard work on most lawns! The method I prefer is to cut a section of turf and lift or roll it back, dig a decent hole, plant the bulbs with about 6″ of soil cover, then replace the turf. Water in if the ground is dry and apply a light general purpose fertiliser. Keep people off, re-feed when the shoots appear, then do not mow for at least 6 weeks after the flowers have faded.
Bulbs for indoor displays need slightly different treatment. Use quality bulb fibre and plant the bulbs so the tip of the bulb is level with the soil surface, water, then store in a cool dark place until the shoots are about 5cm tall – usually about 12 – 14 weeks after planting. Move into a cool bright room until the shoots to turn green and start to grow, then move into the room where you intend to enjoy the display. In bright sunlight you will have to turn the pots daily. Paperwhite is a good variety for indoors – it is quick to flower and strongly scented. Cragford is a pretty white scented daffodil with an orange centre and Tete a tete will work anywhere!
Hyacinths for indoors need specially prepared bulbs which you will easily find in the garden centres and they should be treated the same – just plant with the tops showing above the soil. These bulbs can also be planted in hyacinth vases over water – I remember as a child the delight of seeing the roots going down into the water to fill the vase and the flower spikes going up – there’s an idea for a Christmas gift for a child with an interest in nature!
This year I have planted Amaryllis (or Hippeastrum) in pots on my kitchen window sill – I still get a kick out of watching the shoots grow and wondering how many flower spikes I will get and again, Amaryllis planter packs make a great gift at Christmas. If you get some planted this weekend, the shoots will be well developed for Christmas…well, that’s what I’m hoping anyway!