Tuesday, January 22

Blooming beautiful

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All you need to know about planting bulbs. Get them in the ground in the next couple of weeks for colour and variety in spring.

The first half of April is traditionally the best time to plant spring flowering bulbs in local gardens.

We grow bulbs for their beauty and colour but also for the variety and change they bring to our landscapes. Mass plantings of bulbs are popular in large gardens and parks but in smaller townhouse gardens they can be planted as part of a mixed border or in containers.
For success when planting bulbs in pots you must make sure the pot has adequate drainage but never allow the bulb roots to dry out. Place pots in a semi-shaded position and water every day.
If you are planting bulbs in the garden take care where you place them. Winter and spring flowering bulbs don’t fare well in hot areas. Avoid areas along driveways, paths or sunny walls unless you can provide some form of protection from the heat.
Daffodils, tulips and hyacinths are particularly susceptible.
Ranunculus offer spectacular colour in spring, if planted before the end of April. Picture: Kay Montgomery
How to plant
Bulbs will grow in most garden soils if it is correctly prepared and drains well. It is important to apply
fertiliser before planting.
Spring flowering bulbs should be planted into cool soil. If the soil is too hot, the bulb will abort its embryo flower. What exactly does this mean? Experienced gardeners suggest if you sit on the soil with a bare bottom and your bottom is really cold within three minutes, it is time to plant bulbs!
Choose your planting spot carefully. Before planting, dig over the bed to about the depth of a spade and add a generous amount of compost. Bulbs grow best in well-drained soil.
Some gardeners place a handful of river sand in the hole when planting daffodils to aid drainage. When planting bulbs under a ground cover, scatter them over the planting area for a natural effect.
Plant bulbs about 5-8cm apart with a 5cm soil covering. A thick layer of mulch will keep the soil moist and cool in sunny positions.
Spring flowering bulbs do badly
in a west-facing bed that gets full afternoon sun. Rather plant them in an east facing position.
Bulbs are planted with the pointed side up with the exception of anemones, which should be planted pointed side down, and ranunculi where the claws must hang downwards.
After planting, over-plant bulbs with fast-growing winter flowering annuals of your choice. Apply 2-3cm of mulch. Give bulbs generous amounts of water to ensure they flower well.
What bulbs should you plant? Try indigenous spring flowering bulbs such as freesia, ixia, sparaxis, tritonia, lachenalia, bush lily (Velheimia bracteata), wild tulip (Homeria elegans), chincherinchee (Ornithogalum thyrsoides) and Gladiolus tristis. You can also plant exotics (non-indigenous bulbs) such as anemones, daffodils, freesia, hyacinth, ixia,ranunculus, sparaxis, leucojum, Dutch iris, anemone and brodiaea. Wait until May to plant tulips. 
There are hundreds of daffodil varieties available. Picture: Kay Montgomery
Display ideas
● Plant early-flowering bulbs close to the house, where you can see them from indoors. That way, if the weather is too cold or wet to go out, you can still enjoy the display.
● Prolong the flowering season by planting a combination of early- and late-flowering bulbs in the same area or container.
● Create a natural look by scattering bulbs in a border, in an evergreen seed lawn or under a tree. Take a handful of bulbs and gently throw them in the right direction, then plant each where it’s fallen.
● If you’re planting a few big flowering bulbs, such as tulips,
arrange them in groups of odd numbers as this looks more natural.
● For masses of colour in June plant winter and spring flowering annuals between the bulbs. This allows you to create your own special colour schemes.
● Bulbs grown in containers look their best when planted more closely together than is recommended on the instruction leaflet.
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