Planting Flower Bulbs in Grass and Woodland – Naturalised Bulbs

planting flower bulbs Naturalised bulbs, as the term implies, are those grown under as near natural conditions as possible. With the present trend towards more informal gardens – and how much more attractive these are than the gardens of the past – planting flower bulbs in as near natural conditions as possible, have become more and more a part of the garden scene.

Quite apart from the attractiveness of naturalised bulbs it has not been overlooked that these need far less attention than bulbs grown in other ways. I grow naturalised bulbs myself primarily because their beauty is so satisfying but I am keenly aware that they make practically no demands on my time. There is the initial planting, of course, but no annual round of lifting, drying off, storing and subsequent replanting, as you will have with bulbs grown in formal beds used for other displays once the bulbs have finished flowering.

There is one aspect of growing naturalised bulbs, however, which must be considered by the owners of small gardens: the grass must not be cut until the foliage of the bulbs has died down naturally. This means waiting until June or thereabouts, something I do not mind myself, but in a small garden it is a thought to ponder, especially if the planting is near the house. The reason for this is that the bulbs cannot flourish if they are not allowed to complete their growth and so store up food resources for the next season’s development. The grass when eventually cut may be an unattractive brown colour but watering and feeding with lawn fertiliser will soon bring the colour back to normal.

Quite delightful effects can be achieved from small plantings – a drift of daffodils round an old apple tree, crocuses studding a shallow bank or a blue sea of muscari lapping round the trunk of a blossom-decked flowering cherry; these and similar scenes are a lift to the heart after the subdued tones of winter.

When contemplating planting flower bulbs in grass, our thoughts naturally turn to the daffodils or narcissi, and in particular such handsome Trumpet varieties as King Alfred, Magnificence and Golden Harvest which look magnificent with their gay flowers nodding gracefully above the foliage and the bright green new grass. Numerous Large-cupped and Small-cupped varieties, the late-flowering Pheasant’s Eye and other poeticus varieties are also well suited for this purpose; and, for an early display, what better than the Hoop Petticoat Daffodil, Narcissus bulbocodium, in one or other of its forms, or N. pseudo-narcissus, the Lent Lily, another small trumpet-flowered species.

The large-flowered Dutch crocuses are excellent for naturalising in grass and such species as the spring-flowering Crocus tomasinianus and the autumn-flowering C. speciosus. Other plants in-include eranthis, Snake’s-head Fritillarias (Fritillaria meleagris), galanthus (Snowdrop), muscari (Grape Hyacinth), ornithogalum (Star of Bethlehem) and scillas (Squills).

A surprisingly large number of gardens, I find, have at least a little light woodland, mostly left standing when the garden was first made, and such a feature provides splendid opportunities to grow many bulbs informally. Where the sun can strike through the trees – and some openings to sunlight can be made if not provided by nature – lilies of many kinds will be at home. To name just a few-the purple-flowered, dark-spotted Lilium martagon, the much more showy orange-red, spotted L. pardalinum (the Panther Lily) and L. tigrinum splendens (a fine form of the Tiger Lily).

For clothing a lightly shaded bank under trees, there is the delightful little Cyclamenneapolitanum for late summer-early autumn flowering. Its beautifully mottled leaves are also a joy in the dullest months of the year. Galanthus, Anemone nemorosa, Chionodoxa luciliae, camassias, dwarf narcissi, bluebells, Erythronium dens-canis and eranthis are other good plants for such conditions.

Naturalised Bulbs

We face a different situation from the foregoing when planting flower bulbs in turf, for unless the area involved is small it would be quite impracticable to clear the turf away, improve the soil, plant and relay the turves. There should not, however, be much to worry about if the grass in the planting area is in good shape, for this in itself is an indication that the soil conditions are reasonably good.

Again, although small quantities of bulbs or corms can be planted with a trowel it is well worth while obtaining a special bulb planting tool if large numbers are involved. This tool cuts out a core of turf and soil when it is pressed into the ground and removes it intact when it is given a twist and lift. The bulb is then placed in the hole and the core of soil and turf replaced and firmed with the feet.

When I know the soil where naturalised bulbs are planted is rather below par, I make a point of feeding them each autumn with a slow-acting fertiliser such as bonemeal or hoof and horn, at the rate of 4oz. per square yard.

Bulbs for Naturalising


‘Actaea’ white with small orange-red cup

‘Carlton’ golden, large-cupped

‘Fortune’ yellow with large orange-red cup

‘King Alfred’ golden, large trumpet

‘Mount Hood’ ivory, large trumpet

‘Van Sion’ golden, double

Bulbs Under Trees

Anemone (Anemone blanda)

Bluebell (Scilla non-scriptus)

Colchicum (Colchicum speciosum)

Crocus (Crocus tomasinianus)

Cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium)

Dog’s-tooth violet (Erythronium dens-canis)

Glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa Iuciliae)

Lily (Lilium martagon)

Scilla (Scilla sibirica)

Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis)

Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum ‘Gravelye Giant’)

Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)

29. September 2010 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Bulbous Plants, Plants & Trees | Tags: , | Comments Off on Planting Flower Bulbs in Grass and Woodland – Naturalised Bulbs


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