Let the bulb planting start!


I do like planting bulbs, even more so than I like sowing seeds and with bulbs you don’t have to prick things out, pot up etc.  I think bulbs are wonderful, its amazing how much is packed into them.  You pop them in the ground, walk away and in six months time you have beautiful flowers – whats not to like.

In previous years I have been a little cautious in my spending on bulbs mainly from having to be thrifty for years and years as a single parent.  However, times they are a changing and I am in a position now to indulge my passions a bit more so I have bought far more bulbs this year, although my inherent caution still held me back a bit.  Also as anyone who has read this blog for a while will know I have been discovering the world of alpines and showing plants this past year so back in April I ordered a whole load of miniature bulbs with the express view of, hopefully, having some plants to exhibit.

Over the last few weeks the parcels have started to arrive, so far from miniature Bulbs, Peter Nyssen and Buried Treasure – Avon Bulbs are still due.  Conscious of how many bulbs I have to plant today was set aside to beginning the task, although it isn’t really a task.  I had the benefit of using my new workspace in the garage which my eldest son has been creating for me – this is my reward for giving up a corner of the garden for his workshop.  Having bought up the local nurseries supply of small pots I did the show bulbs, with the exception of the tulips, first.  I am leaving all the tulips until well into November to try to limit the chances of them getting tulip fire.


So far I have planted the following:

Narcissus Joy Bishop
Narcissus Sun Disk
Narcissus Pacific Coast
Narcissus Beryl
Narcissus Assoanus
Bulbocodium vernum
Iris histriodes
Lady Beatrix Stanley
Sternbergia greuteriana
Brimeura fastigata alba
Iris stalonifera
Colchicum davisu
Allium bollandieri

I am planting them in a very gritty mix of horticultural grit and John Innes No 2, almost 50:50 and with a handful or two of horticultural sand thrown in to help with drainage.  At one of the talks I have been to this year the speaker, well-known for his prize winner displays, was saying how he planted bulbs straight onto grit and then filled in around the bulbs with the compost.  I couldn’t quite bring myself to do this but after some research I decided to go for a super gritty compost so we shall see if it works – if nothing else the weight of the grit will stop the pots falling over!

I have also planted the first Narcissus in the garden. Narcissus Pipit and Narcissus Minnow have gone into the Cottage Border which is now ready for Spring – so that’s one part of the garden ticked off for a while.




Author: Helen Johnstone

I live in Malvern, Worcestershire and am a very keen gardener. I started the Patient Gardener Blog in January 2008 as a way of recording what was happening in my garden and connecting with other like-minded people. I started a second blog PatientGardener 365 January 2013 in order to try and post a photo a day to capture what is growing in my garden or places I have visited

17 thoughts on “Let the bulb planting start!”

  1. Goodness, but I haven’t even looked at a bulb catalogue yet. A friend is loaning me the Nyssen one next week so I will put in a quick order. Pipit is a gorgeous daffodil, I think. Good choice. Dave.

    1. Well Dave, I am a bit of a bulb addict and I have to squeeze planting in at weekends so have to be a bit ahead of the game

  2. Hi Helen – Being in a colder part of the world do your bulbs come up year after year as I would have thought? Especially if in the ground. I still can’t get my head around having to plantg tulips every year! I now know that here in Auckland people try refrigerating etc but I now treat them as an annual, BUT would have thought in England you can have for several year. After all daffs, freezias, dutch irises, grape hyacynths, narciciss, tete-e-tete wee daffs give pleasure year after year – oh yes also my ping lacanalias. oppps all the spelling mistakes. I would really especially like to know about tulips! It just seems a lot of money year after year when they can be snuggling and grown in the garden. After all we have paddocks (fields in England) of Daffodils. Rotorua has amazing tulips on display – it’s cold there, but I don’t know if they have new bulbs year after year. Spring has sprung here and today on 6 of the blossom trees up the drive they have one little bunch of flowers. The tuis are gorgeous and noisy and singing and calling for a mate.

    1. Hi Yvonne
      Tulips are generally treated as annuals here in the uk too. There are some species that come up year on year but the general tulips deteriorate over time. My understanding is that the bulb you plant in year one doesn’t necessarily flower in year two, a smaller bulb is formed which isn’t big enough to flower the second year and so no flowers and so people don’t bother. I think you would have to add to the first year planting in year two and then hope the tulips start to bulk up and establish. My own experience is that the majority never flower as well the second year. I have planted ballerina as I have been told that will come back year on year and naturalise so we shall see

  3. Good luck with your show bulbs, your greenhouse will be made good use of through the winter. But, unlike you, I hate planting bulbs especially in our hard clay soil. Sometimes I make a hole only to find that there are some bulbs there already which I have damaged. I plant most of mine in pots and then plant out in the spring when I can see where the gaps are.
    In fact I’m prompted by your blog to do one of own on this subject.

  4. What a lovely light spot to pot bulbs up! And how wonderful to be able to indulge your passion for plants more now, I can almost feel that pent up pressure of plants wanted but not possible, see the wheel controlling the weir turning, see the trickle turning into a steady stream… Well, you know what I mean, enjoy the bulbs! They are little bundles of magic, it never ceases to amaze me that these little brown lumps turn into spectacular Spring colour. I will look forward to hearing about how you get on with Minnow and Pippit as they were two I toyed with before I got to that “whittle it down to manageable” stage on my order. I have my fingers crossed for good bulb planting weather in October this year.

    1. Not madly keen on fruit imperialis, but like the smaller varieties. My tulips are either species for showing which should bulk up year on year or for pots in the garden. I have reduced the amount of tulips I am growing this year as they attract the badger which trashes everything

  5. I’ve planted autumn-flowering crocus, but it is still warm here and the bulb order for spring blooms has not yet been shipped. A la Jason, I’m also planning on tulips in pots, but I’ll purchase those at the local box stores since they’ll be compost by summer.

    Good luck with the show bulbs! Fingers crossed.

    1. My tulip bulbs are as cheap as those in local equivalent to your box store, company do very good price for large nos

  6. Happy bulb planting! Not much of a bulb planter myself but I do get envious of gardeners with beautiful spring gardens filled with daffodils and tulips.

  7. Hi Helen – thanks for that clear explanation. Much joy at my hostas in their new spring dresses – have lost only two in the move (grand kids didn’t water when their Mum on holiday on Stewart Island) Only one herchera survived – boo hoo.

  8. I love the promise of planting bulbs, but find the planting itself hard labour! Our heavy clay makes it a hard job planting into the ground, and I invariably slice through a few existing bulbs in the process! Using a heavy iron bar to make deep enough holes in the ground leaves me aching. I did get all the narcissus, crocus and anemones I bought this year into the ground a few weeks ago though, along with some daffs that were dug up elsewhere and last year’s tulips which I threw out of their pots. The new tulips will go into pots in a few weeks’ time, which will be a much easier task!

  9. I am with Sarah at Hillwards on the planting aspect of bulbs! Nevertheless I am rather jealous that your P. Nyssen order has already come as I am still waiting and I didn’t order late – but did include lilies which I knew would make it a bit later. Good luck with your show bulbs – it’s exciting to be planning for those. I am developing a real fondness for the species tulips which are indeed pretty reliable and do naturalise – definitely to be recommended.

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

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