There’s nothing quite like the slight glint of a snowdrop petal to bring a smile on a gloomy winters day. Freezing weather and possible snow can dismay many people, with their outdoor spaces becoming horticultural wastelands with no flower in sight. A particularly quiet time in the gardener’s year, the small glimmer of vibrant flowers signals the beginning of spring, and the onset of warmer weather. And with such a huge array of beautiful flower specimens emerging from seemingly lifeless bulbs, a bit of care and thought can result in seasonal color throughout the year.
Planters and pots are particularly useful for growing bulbs, largely because varieties can often be lost in garden borders unless used in huge quantities. An expanse of spring tulips or a sea of daffodils easily provides a stunning sight, but a few clumps of even the most vivid petals can quickly be overshadowed by other shrubs and perennials. Meanwhile, with pots easily movable, color can be taken to where it’s most needed. And by choosing varieties with differing flowering times, a single planter can provide beautiful blooms from season to season.
Winter & Early Spring
The late winter and early spring is the time of year that people most associate with bulbs. Snowdrops and crocuses subtly emerge from undisturbed ground, glistening with pastel shades of purple, yellow, and cream. Bringing a welcome splash of color after the bleak hues of winter, they are ideal for planting in pots. These early flowering bulbs will give planters their first burst of color, whilst leaving little foliage to obscure later varieties as they begin to grow. Unlike larger bulbs which need more depth, small crocus and snowdrop bulbs can be placed only two to three centimeters below the soil. Scattering over the entire surface area of the planter will give an impressive show on grey days, brightening any patio area needing the warmth of color.
For vibrancy after the crocuses and snowdrops have died away, tulips and daffodils are the ideal companion. Place bulbs deeper than their counterparts, approximately three times the depth of an individual bulb, and spaced at least one bulb width apart to provide ample room for growth. In pots, where space is sometimes at a premium, the miniature varieties of daffodils are often best. Taking up less space they also have less foliage, allowing planters to remain neat and tidy even after the blooms have long disappeared.
A range of exotic and beautiful bulbs exist for gardeners who want to ensure both structure and color throughout the summer months. Agapanthus, gladioli, and lilies all provide scented and vivid blooms in the warmer weather, creating eye catching features in any garden. Meanwhile alliums, with their range of flowering times, provide the opportunity to ensure that explosive purple, white, or blue flowers give interest when other specimens may be fading or preparing to grow.
Whilst the majority of traditional bulbs flower through the spring and summer months, a range of autumn blooming species can give the ideal end to a pots flowering season. Nerines push out vibrant blooms as other specimens around them fade, whilst the pale whites and deep reds of cyclamen can continue to surprise through until Christmas. Meanwhile, seed heads of alliums, if left in place, will give sculpted architecture to any pot, catching and glinting in the frost as the colder weather creeps in.
By carefully choosing bulbs, gardeners can create stunning displays that will not only provide color but also structure throughout the entire year. From sculptural spikes of alliums and agapanthus, to small glints of crocus or cyclamen beauty, all seasons can offer up a new and changing look to a bulb planter. Actively feeding every seven to ten days during the growing season will ensure that bulbs soak up as many nutrients as possible. And after only a few weeks of deep winter sparseness, the first blooms will once again begin to reappear.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Geoff Wakeling is a London based writer and gardener who works within the media industry as a garden expert. Running a landscape design and maintenance business, he also holds a degree in Zoology, runs a gardening website, The Guide to Gay Gardening, and has articles listed on Ezine and eHow.