Welcome to the second of Paul’s Gardening posts and you will discover that not only is Paul Andruss is an exceptional writer, he also has a very great knowledge of plants. This week bulbs that blossom into brilliant colour in the spring garden
Light up your life with brilliant bulbs – Part 1: Early Spring Bulbs
When I talk about bulbs I am also including corms and tubers, basically anything with a fleshy base that sits underground. Technically they are different but you can treat them much the same way.
People think of bulbs as daffodils and tulips, and tubers such as dahlias and irises. They are so much more. Bulbs will take you right through the year. Their purpose is to provide a hit of vibrant colour for year after year. Most only flower once in the year and at different time and after flowering, die back leaving room for other plants to come up through where they stood. People often buy mixed bags of bulbs making the mistake thinking they will all come up at once.
Bulbs are relatively cheap and will romp away if you get them in the right place. Being a miser, I buy stuff from bargain shops and supermarkets. Mail order is usually pretty good for more specialist bulbs. Or plan ahead and buy bulbs, which have finished flowering, dirt cheap from garden centres desperate to sell them off. Like most things buying wisely is simply a matter of confidence.
Most spring bulbs like to be kept dry in summer when the trees are sucking up moisture from the soil and prefer shelter from the full summer sun so plant them in flower beds with good well-draining soil and with some shade, like under trees and shrubs in the garden or in pots.
As a rule of thumb all bulbs should be planted 21/2 times as deep as they are tall. Cyclamen should be planted literally just under the surface while you cannot plant tulips deep enough. The earlier in winter a bulb flowers, the smaller the flower usually is. Here is a list of early flowering bulbs running from January to March.
Winter Aconite (RHS.org)
Winter aconite (Eranthis) is a little patch of sunshine belonging to the buttercup family. It is one of the first bulbs to come up.
Double snowdrop (Eurobulbs)
Snowdrops are easy to grow and clump well. There are about 25 species including double flowered varieties. They have a taller relative called the Snowflake which flowers late spring and into early summer.
2 foot high Summer Snowflake Leucojum Aestivum (Gardinia.net)
Saffron crocus: grown in Wales (Orange stamens are saffron) (Lovethegarden.com)
Crocus is one of the easiest bulbs to grow and will grow anywhere except in thick claggy soil. The two golden stamens of the Saffron Crocus are the spice saffron: the most expensive spice in the world. Britain used to be a thriving saffron producer but the industry died out by the early 20th Century. It is now being revived, perhaps something to try for yourself?
In the Middle-Ages merchants would often travel with a small leather bag of saffron tied under their testicles. The exact location is called the isthmus (I kid you not). As saffron was worth more than its weight in gold, it provided an easily overlooked insurance policy in case of robbery. I mean, would you go rooting down there? And don’t try pulling the old … well, if he looked like George Cooney. Let me tell you, very few medieval merchants looked like George Clooney; and none smelled like him. While we’re on the subject of smells, I can categorically guarantee the secret location is in no way related to the spice’s somewhat dusky odour.
Glory of the Snow (JParker.co.uk)
Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow), Siberian Squill & Puschkinia are related to asparagus and come from Turkey and Greece.
Siberian squill (illinoiswildflowers.com)
Puschkiniascilloides (Pacific bulb society)
Iris Reticulata (RHS.org)
Iris Reticulata is the earliest of the bulb irises. The delicate flowers do get hammered by the rain, but the later spring flowering Dutch iris bulbs are taller and tough as old boots. I bought 30 bulbs for under £2.00. There is no excuse not to treat yourself!
Dutch Iris (JParkers.co.uk)
As most of the above bulbs are from mountainous places with a thin well-drained soil none of this group like sitting in wet heavy soil. Therefore they tend to do better in pots or slight slopes for drainage. If your soil is heavy or clay, dig areas out to 8 inches deep, put a 1 inch layer of horticultural grit down beneath the bulbs then cover them with a mix of the soil with 50% horticultural sand and grit to help drainage.
White & purple naturalised hyacinths (Wikipedia)
Hyacinths are grown indoors for their distinctive perfume. Indoor Hyacinths are prepared by plant sellers to flower early and more compact. You cannot take them out of the garden and expect the same results. You need to buy them new each year, which is a lot easier then preparing them for indoor flowering. Old indoor bulbs will flower normally in the garden for year after year later in spring.
Hyacinthus was a beautiful boy jealously loved by the West Wind. Seeing the sun god Apollo cosying up to Hyacinthus over a discus (discus; not disco: think lethal frisbee) the West Wind became jealous. Catching the discus he caused it to veer off-course and accidently killed his beloved. From the boy’s life-blood soaking the ground, the purple hyacinth bloomed. (What is it with these Greek Gods? Couldn’t they keep it in their trousers? Ok, so the Ancient Greeks didn’t wear trousers. But that’s no excuse!)
Bi-colour muscari latifolium (fluwel.com)
Grape Hyacinths or Muscari are easy, early-blooming cousins. Recently they have been bred as bicolours.
Hardy Cyclamen (Rhs.org)
Cyclamen are another big flowered indoor plant that have small flowered hardy outdoor varieties such as Cyclamen Neapolitanum that thrive nestling under bushes and trees. Seedpods develop on the ends of the flower stems which curl back like springs. When the seeds are ripe the seedpods explode at the end of the spring hurling the seeds over a wide area, so you get plants growing everywhere.
Plants for free! You can’t go wrong with that!
©Paul Andruss 2018
Thanks to Paul for that very colourful display of flowers we can populate our gardens with. Certainly looking forward to seeing mine appear in the pots at the front of the house.
About Paul Andruss.
Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.
Thomas the Rhymer – a magical fantasy for ages 11 to adult about a boy attempting to save fairy Thomas the Rhymer, while trying to rescue his brother from a selfish fairy queen
When Fairy Queen Sylvie snatches his brother, schoolboy Jack is plunged into a sinister fantasy world of illusion and deception – the realm of telepathic fairies ruled by spoilt, arrogant fairy queens.
Haunted by nightmares about his brother and pursued by a mysterious tramp (only seen by Jack and his friends) Jack fears he too will be stolen away.
The tramp is Thomas the Rhymer, who only speaks in rhyme. Lost and frightened Thomas needs Jack’s help to find his way home.
The race is on for Jack and his friends to save Thomas from the wicked Agnes Day (who wants to treat Thomas like a lab rat). And save Jack’s brother from Sylvie.
To do this they need the help of Bess – the most ancient powerful fairy queen in the land.
But there is a problem…
No one knows where Bess is… or even if she is still lives.
And even if they find her… will she let them go?
Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Rhymer-Jack-Hughes-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00EPQL7KC
When the fairy folk deliver a soldier called Finn (the first outsider in plague-stricken Ireland for a decade) Erin believes he is Finn Mac Cool – returned to kill the tyrant King Conor Mac Nessa of Ulster. and free Great Queen Maeve – Ireland’s true ruler & Erin’s dying mother.
The druids kidnap Finn – planning to turn him into the hero Finn Mac Cool – who will save the world by destroying it.
Erin goes in looking for Finn – so he can kill Conor Mac Nessa before her mother’s dream of a free Ireland dies with her.
Erin’s quest draws her ever-deeper into Ireland’s ancient mythological landscape; a place…
… Where dream and reality merge
… Where a man’s fate is written fifteen hundred years before he was born
… Where books are legends & a library a myth
… Where people hate Christians for defying the gods
… Where phony druids use real magic
Find out more and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Finn-Mac-Cool-Paul-Andruss-ebook/dp/B018OJZ9KY
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My thanks again to Paul for another informative post to help us fill our gardens with colour. If you have any questions for Paul on gardening, please put in the comments.. thanks Sally