When summer bedding is spoiled by frost remove it and replace it with bulbs for spring flowering.
Planting spring-flowering bulbs
Daffodils and hyacinths are best for an early display; tulips for a later one. Plant the bulbs on their own or between plants such as wallflowers, forget-me-nots, winter pansies and polyanthus. Spring-flowering bulbs can also be planted in tubs and window boxes, and dwarf irises and squills in informal groups in the rock garden.
Bulbs are remarkably tolerant in the first year, but whether they thrive after that depends on how well they are suited to their position. Those that come from the Mediterranean and the Near East prefer drier conditions where they can get the full sun in the summer. Woodland plants, such as bluebells and winter aconites, will do best in deep, leafy soil that doesn’t dry out too much.
When planting a bed devoted to bulbs, first plan the layout. Start planting in the centre and work outwards to the edges allowing about 15cm between bulbs in each direction.
If you are planting bulbs in a mixed border, plant the perennials and shrubs first and then position bulbs between them. Allow more space between bulbs when planting them in this way.
As a rough guide to planting depth, bury each bulb twice as deep as its height. If you have a great many bulbs to plant, or the weather is bad, plant the daffodils first. They begin their root growth earlier them most bulbs.
Easy Planting Method
To achieve an informal grouping, scatter between 6 and 20 bulbs on the ground and plant each where it falls.
If you want an instant display on a lawn or in rough grass, an easy method for planting small bulbs, such as crocuses, snowdrops and scillias, is to make holes 8-10cm deep with a crowbar or dibber in an irregular pattern. Fill the bottoms of the holes with peat, peat substitute or fine soil, place a bulb in each, then fill to the surface with peat, peat substitute or sand. The grass will soon cover the tiny patches, and you can mow through the autumn until the bulbs start to grow at the end of winter.
You have to allow all the leaves to die down to build up the strength of the bulbs before you start mowing again next spring, but if you want to start mowing early in the year and you are prepared to sacrifice the bulbs, choose early-flowering varieties and replant with fresh bulbs each autumn.
Winter-flowering arum lilies
Repot lilies for winter flowering under glass using potting compost. Place one plant in each 13-15cm pot, or three in a 20-23cm pot. Store in the greenhouse or indoors.
Cut gladiolius flower spikes regularly, leaving at least four leaves on each plant.