The 3 best spring flowering bulbs for cutting to mindfully plant this autumn

Despite the fact that things in the garden are slowing down, the temperature is dropping, the leaves are turning brown and slowly winding their way towards the ground.

There is still so much we can do in the garden to relieve stress and anxiety.  In fact this is one of my favourite seasons in the garden, the planting of bulbs brings so much promise of what is to come.  It gets my tummy all fizzy with excitement and helps me to navigate the long cold winter with a more positive outlook.

In this blog I talk about my top 3 spring flowering bulbs to plant this autumn, how to do it and why i think they're well worth it!

 

1. Alliums

purple allium heads in the wellbeing border

When to plant them?

Ideally, your allium bulbs should be planted by the end of September. 

Why grow them?

When alliums flower, they have lovely long, tall, thin, green stems with a purple ball on the top. So they're a real sight for sore eyes in Spring.  The bees love them and we want to do everything we can to encourage wildlife into our wellbeing gardens. But the main reason to grow them as a cut flower, is because they fill that May gap.  What is the May gap I hear you ask?  Generally in May there is a gap in the flowers that are available for cutting in the garden. This is because your spring sown seeds obviously haven't started flowering yet, and your Tulips, and other early spring flowering bulbs have finished flowering. Alliums flower in exactly this period, and that's why they are so valuable in my opinion.  It means you still have something to cut and arrange for the house.

How to plant them

The bulbs like a well drained soil in a sunny spot. So if you have heavy clay soil, I would advise planting them in containers. On any other sort of well draining soil, then find a sunny spot and they can go straight into the ground.  As always with gardening and floristry they look best planted in groups of odd numbers. I'm going to try and plant some of mine in a mass this year, but they can be planted in groups of five, three, any odd number. 

They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, mainly the colours are various shades of purple and white. I think there's a couple of blue and pink varieties as well.

Spacing

For the smaller headed varieties, you want to leave about a 10 cm gap between your bulbs. For the bigger headed varieties, you want to leave about 20 cm, because although the stem is quite thin, the heads on some of the big varieties are almost the size of your head. So, if you plant the bulbs too close together, they will just bang against each other, damage each other and generally won't look quite so nice. 

swathe of purple alliums in front of a pale green garden shed

Planting depth

Alliums like to be planted at four times the depth of the bulb. So if your bulb is two cm, then they need to be planted at 8cm. Once you've dug your hole to the right depth you want to put the bulb so the top pointy bit is poking up, 'cause that's where the shoots are going to come from. The things that look like little hairs on the bottom of the bulb are roots growing out, and they want to go down into the bottom of the hole. 

 

2. Daffodil (Narcissus if you want to get all Latin about it)

Daffodils front and centre of spring display with blue muscari and a tree covered in apple blossom in the background

When to plant them?

Daffodils can be planted any time from September to November, but I like to do mine in October, purely because I'm trying to do my alliums in September, I'm gonna do my tulips in November, so October is the time where I give these babies some attention.  Plus it helps me avoid the overwhelm of having too much on my gardening to do list!

Why grow them?

The reason they're such a good cut flower for the home gardener is because you can plant them in the lawn, and they don't take up valuable space in your beds. This is invaluable if you are gardening in a small garden with limited planting space! Plus they brighten up the lawn and provide some interest for your eyes when you look out over the expanse of green.

The second reason is because you can get loads of different varieties in colours other than the standard supermarket yellow. One particularly special variety, Sophie Girl has lovely orangey-pink trumpets in the middle and then white petals around the outside. Plus they smell amazing, a must for really increasing the gardening for mindfulness factor.

Sophie girl narcissus daffodil on gravel

A particularly quirky little variety I am also growing in a container is called Tete-a-Tete. Their stems are short with lots of little flower heads on each stem, so they look great planted in a container that sits on the table in my garden, brightening the garden up in February and March time while everything else is looking still a bit bare. They also look fab in a container next to your front door to lift your spirits after a tough day.

How to plant them

Spacing

If you are planting daffodils in the border or in the lawn, they need to be spaced at twice the width of the bulb. So a really easy way to do this is to line up four bulbs in a row and take the two middle ones out to get your spacing.  You can just do it by eye, but it's the forensic scientist in me, I can't help measuring and being all precise (ahem, control freak). If you're planting them in a container though, you only need one width gap, so again, you could line up three bulbs and remove the middle one to get your spacing.

When planting in a lawn take the bulbs in your hands and throw them up in the air.  Plant them where they land to get a more natural effect. 

Planting depth

Daffodils need to be planted at a depth of three times the size of the bulb. The ones I am planting this year are around 4cm, I will be digging holes 12 cm deep.

3. Tulips

A mix of spring tulips in creams, peaches and greens in the border in front of a wooden fence

When to plant them?

Ideally we should wait to plant our Tulips until November or at least until there have been a couple of hard frosts! This is because there is something that lives in our soil called tulip fire disease. Hard frosts kill off the disease so to ensure we don't lose our crop to it, it's advisable to wait. The disease distorts the flowers, preventing them from growing properly and gives the foliage the appearance of having been scorched, hence the name of the disease.

Why grow them?

There is absolutely nothing better than a vase filled with tulips in the spring. I don't know if it's because after a long winter, with very few flowers about, the sight of a bit of colour lifts my mood.

I have also found the most fabulous vase for tulips. I don't know about you, but I really struggle to find a vase for tulips that doesn't let them flop over the sides.  This one holds them really upright!

The second reason to grow tulips is because you can get some really stunning looking varieties. Now, when you're choosing your bulbs, I would be really careful about choosing standard bulbs from the garden centre. No disrespect to garden centres but, they tend to just have plain coloured tulips available to buy and the quality can be a bit iffy. Plus you can just go and buy plain coloured tulips as cut flowers in the supermarket for £3 a bunch, so why go to the added effort of growing those varieties?

I've found a really good bulb supplier called Peter Nyssen. They have loads and loads of different varieties, great customer service and are really reasonably priced. I really love their Parrot tulips. I grew some last year, and I'm not kidding you, their heads barely fit in my hand.  

Orange coral parrot tulips nearly the size of a hand

This year I have added some varieties that almost have an ombre effect to their colouring, so the colour changes as you go up the flower. I guess what i'm saying is try something new, something different and something that gives you that feeling of excitement in your belly. 

Spacing

If you're planting them in the border, they need two times the width of the bulb gap. So the same as daffodils. And if they're going in a container only, one times the width.

Having said that, if you are growing for cutting you can plant them a lot closer together, probably about 2.5cm apart, so they look like eggs in a carton!  This means you get longer stems (great for arrangements) but you have to discard the bulbs once you cut the flowers.  So if you're not planning on cutting them i'd stick with the first spacing suggestion.

Tulips in the ground like eggs in a carton

Planting depth

Then in terms of planting depth, I plant some of my tulips in the ground, but I also do some in containers as well. No matter where you are planting them, they need to be planted at three times the depth of the bulb.  Planted too shallow and the stems wont be able to support the heavy flower heads, too deep and they won't flower. 

No pressure then ;)

A time saving tool

I thought i'd mention a useful tool to help you in your bulb planting extravaganza and save you time!

Introducing the bulb trowel.  This is kind of like a normal trowel but its slightly thinner and has measurements on it.  Mine has both centimetres and inches on it. 

Dig your hole and then place the tip of the trowel on the base of the hole and see how deep it is.

If you don't have access to a bulb trowel, obviously you can use a normal trowel and a tape measure. But it's just a bit more faffy.

I hope you've found this useful, and that it inspires you to go and try some new varieties to grow in your garden. All of these bulbs can be grown in containers. So if you don't have much space, get yourself a pot, pop them in and ta-da come spring, a mini garden.

If you’re fed up of your garden looking a mess and want to Get your garden looking gorgeous in just 5 minutes a day then download my free checklist here.

 

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