Autumn is bulb planting season and it’s not as tricky as you might think. Bulbs are guaranteed to flower and in no time at all your windowsill, courtyard or garden with be full of fragrant flowers.
Bulbs are the ugly ducklings of the plant world. I find it magical how an unimpressive onion-like bulb can transform itself into the most exquisite and elegant bloom, then die down and repeat the cycle for another year.
Plant bulbs in containers for your balcony, courtyard or windowsill, or plant them directly into the garden. Their versatility is unmatched; if you haven’t grown bulbs before, now is the time to select your favourites and have a go.
Bulbs are guaranteed to flower at least once. All you need is a sunny spot and a watering can. Some bulbs, such as hyacinths, grow happily on a windowsill while others, such as tulips, daffodils and hyacinths, can be crowded into a pretty pot and brought inside while flowering. Freesias, bluebells and snowdrops like being planted in drifts under trees. My pure white snowdrops flower with the white Yulan magnolia making a perfect match in late winter. Bulbs are an inexpensive way to ‘dress’ your garden.
Imagine drifts of musk pink, lemon butter and snow white petals. Bulb flowers offer a simple elegance and gorgeous spring fragrances. I love to watch their little green shoots appear miraculously from the earth then slowly develop into stunning blooms, each individually shaped and coloured. Wherever you live, growing bulbs is as easy as selecting your favourites and popping them in a pot. Keep them close and add a little water, and in a few months you'll have a heavenly display.
What are bulbs?Bulbs are nature’s pocket-sized gift for gardeners. They look just like onions but are filled with loads of energy and magic. Bulbs are small underground storage organs that hold all the energy they need to shoot and flower. They usually have a papery coating and a pointed top. They are tough, simple to grow and tolerant of the many climatic conditions throughout Australia. All you need to do is select your favourites, although that may be difficult, considering how many stunning choices there are!
What happens after they have finished flowering?After your flower display finishes the leaves will start to yellow and fade. This is the time when all the plant's energy is being transferred back into the bulb for next year’s flowering. At this stage, water again with the liquid bulb food and don’t be tempted to cut off yellowing foliage, as you will disturb this cycle. A good tip is to mark where your bulbs are with a tag, as during summer they will disappear below the soil.
Growing bulbs in potsDaffodils, tulips and hyacinths are all excellent bulbs for small containers. Planting pansies on top of the bulbs will soften the effect and the bulbs will grow through a carpet of colour. Colour code your pansies to contrast or complement the colour of your bulbs, whatever your colour scheme. I like to plant 7-9 bulbs into each pretty pot; don’t be stingy! Press the bulbs into the soil, not too deep – about twice the height of the bulbs will do. Place the pot in the shade until the leaves get to 10cm then place in full sun and feed with bulb food. Once flowers start to open, bring your pot indoors for everyone to enjoy.
Planting tipsIn cool regions, bulbs should be planted during March and April, but in warmer areas planting can be delayed until May, when the soil temperature has dropped. Basically, any time between mid March and late May is good for planting spring flowering bulbs. Plant your bulbs pointed end up, with the exception of ranunculi, which are planted claws down. Planting depth is also a consideration, as every bulb is a different size. The rule of thumb is to plant each bulb twice as deep as the bulb is wide.