September is the month to start thinking about the spring. It’s bulb ordering time and catalogues are filled with wonderful vibrant colours presenting the opportunity to fill the borders with a show stopping display of colour, a welcomed picture after a long winter.
The bulb and seed catalogues are dropping through the door and there is a mild thrill of excitement and joy in flicking through them, organising thoughts and putting the orders in. There is also something wonderful about a pack of bulbs arriving. It’s the excitement of something new and creative dreams coming to the fore.
I always enjoy planning what the borders will look like between February and May when the herbaceous perennials take over. So, here are some of my favourites that have served me well in the past and I’ll be ordering again this year.
Enjoy the combing of catalogues and receiving those bulbs!
First on the scene are the snowdrops I planted in places I can never remember until they appear. There are so many different varieties, each with different ‘paintings’ in the interior petals. Crocus nurseries have a great range of different types so it’s worth giving their website a look.
Narcissus tete-a-tete and gorgeous, often scented and little jewels of light at the front of a border. Unlike their larger cousins, daffodils, they aren’t prone to flopping in the first strong wind.
However, spring wouldn’t be spring without daffodils. There are so many different shapes, heights and colours to choose from. A gold bright yellow and early in the season is February Gold, tall and strong it’s my favourite in large clusters. I have a particular soft spot for the daintier variety Thalia which is ivory white with multi flower heads and and looks lovely in the shadier part of the garden where it brings light to the space under the apple tree. There are some great choices at Sarah Raven.
Hyacinths, I find, are a little bit like Marmite. They are bold and brash in both floral display and scent but there are definitely certain colours and shapes that I love and wouldn’t be without. On a warm spring day they make a lovely scent to walk into. The deep sumptuous beetroot colour of Woodstock is hard to beat and it has finer flowering habit than some others which makes it seem less deliberate in the border. Set alongside the vibrant cerise pink Jan Bos makes for a brilliant burst of colour. Of the blues my favourite is the purpley blue King of the Blues which has a lilac tone amongst a true blue both in bud and in flower.
Then come the stars of the spring show, tulips. Who can resist the sight of tulips. From the graceful simple single flowers to the ostentatious frills of the parrot varieties. There are so many to choose from. In general the parrot varieties come out a little later than the single flowered types and arrive in May. It is entirely possible to have a tulip display for 6 weeks from mid-April until late May. They look great in pots where you can layer them in a ‘lasagne’ style to get a huge amount of flowers and colour. My favourite ones are Tulipa ‘Orange Favourite’ a scented parrot of vibrant orange and yellow. The deep red single flowered ‘Jan Reus’ is gorgeous. All of the deep burgundies are stunning when coupled with brighter colours, try ‘Queen of the Night’, ‘Black Hero’ or ‘Black Parrot’. For an impressive lipstick red I love ‘Red Impression’ a tall single flowered tulip. Tulips are planted in November, late in the year after the frosts have gotten going but it makes sense to order now before the best colours have sold out. Once again try Sarah Raven for a fabulous collection and ideas of how to put different ones together.
Alliums are great statuesque plants in the border adding height and architecture in early summer. They are fairly expensive when buying them as mature plants. Bulbs are still expensive but much cheaper than buying as potted plants. Many varieties and sizes to choose from, they also range in shade from white and green to a range of purples. If you want real, show stopping height, then I would go for something like Globemaster or Emperor. For pure luxury and style I don’t think there’s anything more beautiful than Purple Sensation in drifts. If you fancy something more unusual then take a look at Allium ‘Schubertti’, ‘Cristophii’ or ‘hair’.