It’s not too late to plant bulbs

October 31st, 2014 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Narcissus 'Minnow' (top) and 'February Gold'It’s almost November, you were full of the best of intentions, you know that unlike just about any other plant you buy spring bulbs are guaranteed to flower – but you never quite got round to planting them. And now think it’s too late. Well, think again.

Every spring flowering bulb you buy has its flower bud already formed and tucked up inside ready to go. You have to commit a terrible sin to stop it flowering – like boil it, or something. I’ve more than once seen daffodil flowers poking out of their brown paper bags on someone’s garage shelf where they’d sat, forgotten, for months. Treat them properly and you know what a joy their flowers will bring.

And it’s very definitely is not too late to plant them. In fact, November is generally reckoned to be the best month of all to plant tulips and while it’s coming towards the end of daffodil and allium planting season, they can go in soon as well.

So varieties like the lovely dainty bicoloured baby daffodil ‘Minnow’ (left top, click to enlarge) , the dependably early flowering ‘February Gold’ (left below) and the primrose and white ‘Silver Chimes’ with up to ten flowers on each stem can all be planted this month.

Amongst tulips, the red and white RHS people’s Choice Award winner ‘Timeless’, about which more next time, stands out and is lovely with forget-me-nots. The terracotta reddish purple ‘Abu Hassan’ and smoky purple ‘Havran’ are both ideal with primrose yellow wallflowers, while the Border Bulb Collection of tulips includes the deep purples ‘Blue Ribbon’, the creamy ‘Shirley’ and one of my all time favourite tulips, the double-flowered appleblossom pink ‘Angelique’.

Allium giganteum with Bombus lapidarius (the bumblebee)In alliums, two of the best for mixing with perennials are Allium giganteum and Allium sphaerocephalon. Try Allium giganteum (right, click to enlarge) interplanted amongst Achillea ‘Moonshine’ while Allium sphaerocephalon makes a sultry display with Agastache ‘Blue Boa’ or a dark contrast to the pink Lythrum salicaria ‘Blush’.

And here’s a tip that’s been suggested to me this autumn: If you’re planting bulbs at this time of year, especially alliums and daffodils, give them a helping hand with an overnight soak in organic liquid seaweed before you plant them. It should help them establish quickly.


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Is one of our best known gardening writers. A graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Graham was previously Gardening Correspondent of The Observer.
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