How to plan your display
Think about how you want to plant your bulbs before you buy. You can theme your garden in colours and go blue (anemones, freesias and grape hyacinths) or burgundy (ranunculi, babianas, sparaxis and tulips), pink (anemones, ranunculi and tritonias) or white (chincherinchees, freesias, jonquils and ranunculi).
Then, just to mix it up, you can go crazy with a cacophony of colour, matching blues (irises) with yellow (daffodils) or reds (tulips) with yellow (daffodils).
Try planting them in a teardrop configuration to up the wow factor, or just dazzle with a crowd of golden daffodils. Consider the colours in your springtime garden, and try to buy bulbs to complement what you already have.
Brighten up your shady areas with snowdrops and crocuses, or plant bulbs specially designed for the warmer climates of Australia. Bold reds, oranges and yellows match the vibrancy of tropical flowers, helping to lift the entire garden from the ground up.
There’s even a collection of bulbs that offers 100 days of colour, another collection that concentrates on the flowers’ fragrances and, if you’re always busy, another collection of bulbs that you just plant and forget.
7 tips for growing bulbs
Don’t worry if you haven’t grown bulbs before, as certain varieties are low-maintenance. If you go for some of the trickier bulbs, these seven tips will have you well on your way to creating an amazing display.
1. Start in autumn
Bulbs should be planted in autumn, so it’s best to order them now. They’ll have enough time to settle into the garden and acclimatise, ready to sprout when the warmer weather arrives come spring.
2. Fake the freeze
Some bulbs need very low temperatures to stimulate flowering. When growing these varieties in not-so-chilly areas, fake it using the fridge. This is usually only recommended for growing tulips and hyacinths, but if you live in a subtropical climate, try it with all your bulbs. Put the bulbs in a paper bag or an egg carton and place in the crisper section of the fridge for a few weeks prior to planting. Alternatively, choose bulbs that thrive in warmer climates, such as freesia, sparaxis, babiana and snowdrop.
3. Plant with care
Plant with care. Most bulbs have a pointy end (which is the top) and a rounded end with the remnants of a few roots still attached (which is the base). Bulbs should be planted in a hole about three times deeper than the bulb’s width. It’s a good idea to dig down just a little deeper and then backfill with soil. This helps the developing roots grow into the soil below. Place the bulb in the hole, with the top facing upward, then backfill with soil, pressing down firmly.
Of course, there is an exception to the rule: corms (like ranunculus and anemones) should be planted with the pointy ends facing downwards. Mark your planting area with a stake to make sure you don’t accidently dig them up between now and spring.
4. Fertilise for flowers
Bulbs don’t need a lot of care, but if you want to get the best out of them, a little added fertiliser will give them a boost. Apply a controlled-release fertiliser when the first leaves appear, for gradual feeding through the season. Later, when the flower buds appear, apply a liquid fertiliser formulated for flowering plants. Just mix with water in a watering can and apply fortnightly to promote brilliant blooming.
5. Be waterwise
Bulbs don’t need any additional water while they’re dormant – natural rainfall is enough. But when their foliage appears and the weather warms, you’ll need to water them about twice a week or more often if they’re planted in pots or when the weather is unusually warm. Be sure to water the soil and not the flower buds to prevent damage to the developing blooms.
6. Let them lie
While it can be hard to let nature run her (sometimes messy) course, bulbs need to reclaim nutrients from their dying leaves at the end of the growing season. So let the leaves brown and die back before you cut them off. At this time, you may also decide to lift out the bulbs and store them in the shed until next autumn, or leave them in situ for the following spring.
7. Plant bulbs in pots
Think about putting bulbs in pots or containers that can sit in a sunny spot on your balcony or deck. Head in another direction and plant bulbs in a part of your lawn – which will be dormant over the winter – and, as soon as it warms up after winter, the freesias and crocuses will turn it into a wildflower meadow.
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