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Among the best types for geometrically designed beds are Hyacinths and Tulips. Their strong upright habit seems particularly suited to the regimentation and precise grouping we associate with formal bedding, whilst Hyacinths in particular are less subject to wind damage in window boxes and other exposed containers.
Where especially impressive displays are wanted choose solid, bright colours as in the early flowering Fosteriana Tulips and certain of the Darwins like `Wm. Pitt' and 'Golden Hind', but for general use in suburban settings the softer shades often give more restful effects.
Tulips used for bedding purposes vary enormously in shapes and shades.
First we have the single and double early flowering sorts, followed by the Mendel and Triumph strains which bloom a little earlier than the Cottage Tulips. The Darwins which follow these are perhaps the most popular, with good clean colours and erect habit, but in recent years Parrots, with variegated flowers of different colours, Lily types with reflexed petals, Bizarres and Breeders, both strikingly tinted, and the Viridifloras, whose flowers contain a good deal of green, have been much in demand both with gardeners and flower arrangers.
Various Narcissi can be used for bedding, although these are best associated with other flowers, such as Arabis and Forget-me-nots. Bulbous Iris may be used in the same manner, growing through a thick under-carpeting of other plants, or Lilies in a woodland setting.
Very small beds can be made bright with De Caen or the St. Brigid types of
Anemones or the double flowered Turban and Giant French Ranunculus.
Plant outdoor bulbs with a trowel, but on no account leave them 'hanging' in a soil pocket. Special bulb trowels are obtainable with narrow blades which cut easily into the ground, and some of these have marked measurements for setting bulbs at the required depth. On very heavy soils it pays to sit the bulbs on a cushion of sand, or even to surround large loose-scaled types like Fritillaria imperialis and Lilies completely with a 2 in. sand layer.
For naturalising small areas of grass or woodland throw down bulbs at random and plant them where they fall. Lifting the turf and then replacing it leaves a neater finish but is laborious, though there is a bulb planter on the market which takes out a core of soil and turf, enabling the gardener to drop the bulb in the hole and then replace the turf.
On no account must the grass be cut before the leaves have turned yellow or ripened, normally about November. This is one reason for grouping bulbs together in specific areas. A scythe (or shears, in the case of a small plot) makes the best cutting tool for the first cut; mowing will later restore the ground to a neater appearance.
Another good way of using bulbs is to plant them haphazardly in a rough piece of grassland to make an alpine lawn. Here native and foreign species of bulbs and flowers, such as Narcissi, Snowflakes (Leucojums), Crocus, Fritillarias, Geraniums (Cranesbills), Camassias and Kingcups (Calthas) may be allowed to colonise. This is an easy and labour-saving form of gardening, and one or two rough cuttings each season with a high set rotary mower will suffice.
Many Lilies are suited to woodland planting and also look well in association with Rhododendrons and Heathers. The following are fairly easy to grow and should be planted about the end of May, 4-6 in. deep. In spring add another inch of soil and cover this with a thin layer of leaves or peat to keep the ground moist.
L. auratum, white with crimson or yellow spots and rays; L. canadense, clear yellow to deep orange; L. henryi, orange spotted; L. martagon, purple, white or pink; L. pardalinum, deep orange with maroon spots; L. regale, white, trumpet-shaped, sometimes flushed pink; L. speciosum, white with crimson spots;
L. tigrinum, bright orange, spotted.