Bulbs–Nature’s Buried Treasures

It’s bulb time.  Gardeners are gearing up to plant them for the annual spring display, and the centres have them looking like lollies in a shop, ready to go into your garden.  What could be more exciting than to plant a strange looking lump or onion-like object only to see it transform into a fabulous flower that surprises you one day when you’re not expecting it?



Bulbs like an organically enriched soil to perform at their best, with good drainage and, in most cases, good sunshine.  There are some exceptions to this, however, with snowflakes, bluebells and grape hyacinths happy to grow in dappled shade.  Some bulbs like a cold spell, so placing your hyacinths and tulips in the fridge (in old egg cartons works well) will give them enough of a chill to flower magnificently once planted.  Not all are this demanding, however, with many happy to stay in the ground year after year and flower each spring without fuss.  Jonquils, Freesias, Ixias, Sparaxis and Babiana are just a few of the hardier options.

Most bulbs need to be planted in Autumn, then flower in late winter and early spring.  It’s important to let them die down (after flowering) to replenish the bulb for the following season – don’t be tempted to cut browning stems off while they are still green as this can jeopardise the following year’s blooms. In fact, this is the time to feed them up so that the bulb has as much reserve for the following year as possible.  Some bulbs, like lilies, can be planted in winter, and these flower later on in the season, from late spring through summer.

For something fun, why not pop a hyacinth bulb in a jam jar or beautiful vase or terrarium.  Simply place some gravel in the base and a small amount of water that comes up just below the gravel.  Nestle in the bulb so that its roots can grow down into the water.  Narcissus ‘Paper Whites’ work well too, and anemones growing up through sphagnum moss look particularly charming too.


By: Meredith Kirton