Naturalizing Bulbs

Bulbs need not be grown formally in beds. They can be planted naturally in grass or in a wild part of the garden.

Generally speaking it is much easier to naturalize bulbs in a large rather than a small garden. I have planted bulbs in a grass orchard, for instance, in a circle around each tree, and then in addition, I have one or two fairy rings of crocuses as well as some drifts of daffodils growing in grass.

If you have got room it is quite a good plan to arrange to have a show for as many months of the year as possible. You start the season with the winter aconites and snowdrops. These are soon followed by scillas and crocuses, and then on to the various types of narcissus and daffodils. Then come the early tulips followed by the Darwin and cottage types, and even later by other varieties. The irises will follow quickly, first the Dutch, then the Spanish and lastly the English. By that time it will be June and many of the lilies will be out together with fritillaries and alliums. The tiger lilies will follow as a rule; then there will be the gladioli. Next come the autumn crocuses and colchicums and lastly the winter flowering cyclamen. All these bulbs will grow in grass, the exception perhaps being the gladioli which prefer to have a little pocket of cultivated soil to grow in.

It is never advisable to plant up the whole of a lawn to bulbs because then it is impossible to mow it and it looks untidy for months. The leaves must always be left to die down naturally so that they can pass back the starches and sugars into the bulbs. By all means plant up grassy banks, the approaches to the lawn, circles round trees, the semi-wild portions of the garden, the drifts on either side of the drive to a house and so on.

Never plant bulbs in grass in straight lines. See that they look natural by planting them in drifts. It is a good plan to take the bulbs and throw them on to the grass and where they fall there they should be planted. In this way they always look more natural. Do the throwing about where you intend the bulbs to be.

A dozen bulbs may look all right in a bowl but plant the same number in a plot of grass 3 m by 3 m (10 by 10 ft) and the show looks insignificant.

The daffodil does well when naturalized – the baby types flourish in the rock garden; ordinary varieties do well as cut flowers; in fact, they are invaluable in the flower gar-den. They grow satisfactorily on a wide range of soils and they seem to ask but one thing and that is shelter from wind. Whenever they are to be planted the ground must be perfectly drained. Cultivate deeply and see that all perennial weeds are removed. Most people plant the bulbs 75 mm (3 in) deep, though large Emperors may be put 100 or 125 mm (4 or 5 in) down. No bulb can ripen properly if planted too deeply. The distance apart varies from variety to variety and as far as the narcissus are concerned the bulbs may be almost touching each other with the rows 225 mm (9 in) apart. When naturalizing they will be planted.

When grown as cut flowers it is important not to cut too much foliage as it is the leaves that manufacture the plant food that in turn feeds the bulbs. It is a good plan when flowering is over to tie the foliage in a knot. This keeps it tidy and enables cultivation to be done between the rows. When lifting has to be done the bulbs should be got up as soon as the tops have died down and before any new root development takes place.

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