A wide range of
bulbs are now available in the Greenfingers Superstore.
Christopher Lloyd gives some handy hints and tips on
how to get the best out of them
It is easy to spend a lot on bulbs. They are so tempting,
and their acquisition nicely bridges that awkward and
rather unpleasant gap that divides autumn from spring.
The bulbs themselves look packed with latent promise
and their finished appearance is liberally illustrated
in bulb catalogues.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I can well
forego most of those bulbs, notably hyacinths, which
have been specially prepared by heat treatment, to flower
prematurely (for them) but in time for Christmas. Without
any special treatment, hyacinths will start to flower
for me at the end of January, and that is when I am
most glad to see them.
What with a selection of early, mid-season and late
flowerers, those you flower indoors will lead on to
those, unforced, which will flower in pots, window boxes
and the open ground without coaxing and right up to
the end of April. As I am particularly fond of the scent
of hyacinths, I welcome this prolonged pleasure. Their
bulbs will last indefinitely, grown outside, if undisturbed,
and it is nice to pick blooms to bring inside as part
of a mixed bunch to be savoured close at hand.
Those that you grow
in bowls to bloom indoors, are the better for being
given a potting compost, with nutrients in it, rather
than totally inert bulb fibre and the stiffer texture
of a potting compost enables you the more easily to
support their foliage and stems with pieces of cane
that will gain a purchase on the compost they are stuck
After they have flowered, and assuming that you don't
want to throw them away, stand the bowls in a light
window in a cool room and remember to water them from
time to time. Watering is most easily and thoroughly
done by holding the bowl under a tap turned to a thin
stream of water. When the water has reached the surface
of the compost, support this and the bowl contents with
the fingers of one hand while you tilt it with the other
until all the unabsorbed water has dribbled out. A thorough
watering of this kind generally needs only weekly repetition.
By April, the flowered bulbs will be able to be stood
out in a cold
frame or greenhouse, but foliage may suffer if the
much-increased light strength is experienced too suddenly.
If you appreciate the danger, it is easily avoided.
Eventually, dry the bulbs off and use them again, wherever
you'd like to have them.
Paper white narcissi are naturally early flowerers and
if you'd like to have them at Christmas, the problem
may be to prevent them from flowering too early. Pot
the bulbs up immediately on arrival, but keep them as
cool as you possibly can, even outdoors in a shaded
position, so long as they they don't get frosted. Then
bring them into warmer conditions when you judge the
time to be right. I usually grow two batches and encourage
them to flower in succession.
If you are growing narcissi in containers, it is nice
to have a pretty dense display. There is an old dodge
for managing this. Use a deep pot and plant the bulbs
in two layers, the upper layer placed so that they are
not immediately above the crowns of those below.
I usually keep my
container-grown tulips in a cold frame throughout, from
the time I plant them. If there is an autumn rush on
to get everything done, remember that tulips are much
more tolerant of being planted late than most bulbs,
whereas narcissi appreciate early planting.
For early flowering outside, choose short-stemmed varieties
of tulip that will not get too battered by March winds,
since their petals are pretty brittle. One of my favourites
for this purpose is the Fosteriana hybrid, Yellow Emperor,
which has large, pale yellow blooms and broad, glaucous
leaves. It opens wide to sunlight and makes you feel
more aware of spring sunshine through your clothes and
on your back, just for looking at it.
When purchasing bulbs, it is wise to receive them direct
out of storage from the supplier, keeping them cool
yourself until planted, rather than from an exposed
shop stand, where they have been submitted to dehydrating
draughts and fluctuating temperatures.
here to buy spring bulbs from our Superstore.
Click on the following Helping Hands workshops for useful
a bulb in earth
a bulb in grass
reprinted with premission from Greenfingers.com