GBDW: Bulbs

When we moved here just over 10 years ago, the first 'vision' I had for my garden was masses of daffodils. It was the day after we'd moved in - on a cold, bleak February day - when I found out the steep bank at the side front of the house wasn't the responsibility of the local council, but was ours. As I watched the builders install the fence at the bottom of the slope to divide our lands, all I could see in my mind's eye was yellow. Later - in November - I took my first baby steps towards making the garden my own, by planting 3 large sacks of daffodils on that slope in the pouring rain. Their burst of brightness the next year was sufficient reward for my soaking.

Since then, I've literally poured bulbs into every corner of the garden: a thousand snowdrops bought in the green by NAH as a birthday present; various Alliums to add fireworks in May through July; Convallaria for scent in the woodland area; and Dahlias to remember childhood happy times as my dad organised the Dahlia and Chrysanthemum show at work, even though he didn't grow any himself. To that heady cocktail I've added crocuses (both spring and autumnal ones), Cyclamen, Muscari, Crocosmia, Gladioli, Anemone (blanda, coronaria and nemorosa), Iris reticulata, bluebells, tulips and winter aconites. And I love each and every one of them when they appear, as if by magic. Which one's my favourite? Whatever's flowering now. When times are good, I have bulbs in flower for 12 months of the year; when they're bad, then it's just for 10.

I've also learnt many things: that we usually use the term bulbs to cover a much wider range of plants which emanate from a fleshy, underground source - true bulbs, tubers, corms and rhizomes. I've found I care enough about the hope snowdrops give me in the depths of winter to count them each year. I've seen that the stems of the Allium family track the sun each day until their flowerheads become too heavy for them to do so. I've come to value Crocosmia not only for their richly hued flowers in the summer, but also for their sword-like leaves which glow in the morning sunshine, because I've put them in just the right spot without realising. I've noted daffodils are flowering up to 3 weeks earlier than when I first planted them here and that I can find their first shoots poking bravely through the soil on that darkest of days, the winter solstice. I've continued to love Dahlias even when most unfashionable, especially the dark leaved ones. There's lots more I could tell you, but I'll leave those stories for another day.

I decided last autumn I was in a bit of a rut which resulted in me ordering way too many tulips. I had to resort to growing them in lots of plastic pots as well as the terracotta ones I'd earmarked for the job. It's a technique I also plan to use later on this year. My newly planted Gladiolus byzantinus have flowered already and I'm also growing Nerines and Eucomis for the first time. I'm not in a position to show those yet. Instead you'll have to make do with the handsome foursome at the head of this article: this year's newbies in full flow at the moment - Begonia 'Bonfire', Dahlia 'Dark Star', Dahlia 'Dark Angel Rose' (there's also Red and Yellow versions still to flower) and an unknown yellow tuberous Begonia. The latter's a freebie from the company which supplied B. 'Bonfire' and the Eucomis :)

Do I like bulbs? You bet :D

BTW the other photos illustrating this piece are: Allium sphaerocephalon with ladybird* instead of the usual bee, Croscosmia 'Lucifer' and Dahlia 'Moonfire'.
*= the YAWA team have gently reminded me that ladybird=ladybug if you're reading this across the pond ;)

Garden Bloggers' Design Workshop is bought to you by the good folk at Gardening Gone Wild.


  1. Now I'm thinking maybe I could do more bulbs.
    I do tend to hide(mix in with other plants) those kind of flowers since the bloom period is usualy short.
    12 months hummm ? Maybe I can too.

  2. Hello Patsi and welcome :) I'm glad this piece has got you thinking about using bulbs a bit more. I don't know whether 12 months is achievable in your Zone, but I'm certain you can have them for most of the year. I've got bulbs peeping through other plants too - you've given me an idea for another post for another time. Thank you.

  3. What a delightful picture you've painted of you looking over the new garden and dreaming about daffodils on your hill! Loved the links and photos. I have a tendency to stick with the same old same old bulbs. Perhaps it's time to mix it up a bit! Thank you...You've inspired me to plant those 'extra' bulbs and the new ones, it seems need to be ordered, in pots and strategically place them in the areas with shallow soil and bedrock! gail

  4. I have a cute pink dahlia blooming and my cannas are thinking about it, as is another dahlia. :) I just don't know where my naked ladies are, or whether I actually planted them at all or only *thought* about planting them. (I do so much each fall, it's a blur next season!)

  5. Beautiful!

    Funny, I don't have many bulbs, except hyacinth, which I'm pleased to report are spreading well. I did plant lots of lily of the valley and bluebells but they didn't come back after the first year. I have neutral to alkaline soil, I wonder if this is a problem with them? Anyway. I have herbs, herbs, herbs, then flowers grown from seed each year. Oh! And I bought some native (annual) foxglove this year too.

    My partner planted some bulbs, some strange dangly onion things. Bees love 'em :)

  6. Hi Gail - I'm so glad this has inspired you especially as we garden on similar soils. I really like the post approach, it lets you move things around and experiment. I found it's particularly good for tulips as I don't think they really like a clay soil.

    Monica - I often have that problem too - so many plans which I'm sure got executed, but later I find they stayed in my head!

    Helena - thank you! I've got alkaline soil, so that shouldn't be a problem for you. I thought my lily of the valley had disappeared too for a few years, but they've come back in numbers the past couple of years, so I'm wondering if the wet summers have helped them. As for herbs - love them! And foxgloves. And you're right - bees adore anything from the onion family as the leeks flowering on the veggie plot can vouch for :)

  7. BTW - Gail, post should read pots - me and my clumsy fingers trying to keep up with my brain ;)

  8. What a lovely post x x

    Linzi x x

  9. Oh yes, love bulbs too VP. Have planted about five hundred daffodils (and is it enough? no, still doesn't look like it does in my head), snowdrops by the thousand (ditto) and love all bulbs. I don't have the gladiolus yet. Mmm, I am feeling I need some more. Just made a tulip order. this is the public tulip order which I share with Ian as opposed to the secret one which will sneak up on my in a month or so. Great blog. I see I am not alone!

  10. I am so envious of your snowdrops bought in the green I have two pots which I split over the years so about 6 clumps these days and my aconites which I waited years to acquire I grow in pots because they are too precious for my garden. Why did I wait so long not sure but there are too many lovely plants making demands on my purse and neither of these grow well from seed sown.

  11. Linzi - welcome and thank you! :)

    Elizabethm - I love the idea of a secret bulb order. I wonder which one's the largest? And if Ian comments, do you say 'well, they have multiplied very quickly haven't they?' ;)

  12. Hi Joanne - your comment came in just as I was posting my reply, so I didn't mean to leave you out.

    Your snowdrops and aconites will multiply, so just a few will become many over time. What a delicious prospect! And do have a look at the Parkers catalogue if you haven't already - they have some really good special offers on bulbs which means your pennies will go much further. They're particularly good for bulbs :)

  13. I used to see a small front garden that only had bulbs in it. It was a picture of colour nearly all year round! xx

  14. There's always room for bulbs, I guess, even if you have to stuff some in pots. I love all your Dahlias, so perfect and bright. I love the idea of having some bulb in bloom 12 months of the year. This post is very timely, as I'm trying to get motivated to determine what little spring bloomers I need to plant & where. In spring, the glaring holes are so obvious, but by July, the foliage of Hostas and other plants hides those spots and, as is too often the case with me, out of sight, out of mind.

  15. Thank you, my fellow bulb lover, for sharing the story of your bulb addiction. From the comments, it looks like your post has inspired several other gardeners to glorify their own gardens with these horticultural wonders. Thanks so much for sharing your obsession and your links too!

  16. Hi VP! I am taking my hat off! I think that I am the blotanist who has the smallest number of bulbs. We have such poor soil... Well, maybe it's not the soil, maybe, I am lazy, that's it! Anyway, you made me think... And for that - thank you!

  17. Flighty - that's exactly it - bulbs are fabulous year-round :)

    MMD - I've just had a reminder from one of the companies to get my bulb order in. Must do so soon!

    Nan - you're most welcome - it was a great subject for GBDW, which I think would be good for a return visit. I do hope I've inspired others too - that's what blogging's about isn't it?

    Tatyana - I'm glad you've found this thought provoking. As for your poor soil, it sounds like a big potfull of bulbs is what you need to resolve the matter :)


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