Planting Flower Bulbs in the Rock Garden and Beds and Borders

Crocus banaticus - planting flower bulbs in the rock garden

Planting Flower Bulbs in the Rock Garden

Miniature bulbs fascinate me and where better to view them than in pockets in the rock garden. They seem to associate so perfectly with the stone outcrops and contours and to provide great interest over such a long period. Indeed it is not at all difficult to have bulbs flowering in the rock garden during every season of the year – a considerable advantage when you think of the rather concentrated flowering times of most rock garden plants.

In spring it is possible to have a wealth of colour from plants like the dwarf narcissi and tulips, Anemone blanda, A. apennina and varieties of A. nemorosa, camassias, Bulbocodium vernum, cyclamen, fritillarias, eranthis, leucojums, ixias and scillas-the list seems never-ending. Summer sees the alliums like moly and ostrowskianum flowering, the ornithogalums, dwarf gladioli, and zephyranthes, and in autumn one can look forward to the flowering of Sternbergia lutea, Leucojum autumnale, autumn-flowering crocus and the first of the snowdrops. The last-mentioned, of course, spread their flowering through the winter months, and one can also have in flower in February and March such charming dwarf irises as Iris histrioides major and the lovely deep blue and gold I. reticulata and its varieties. There need never be a dull moment with clever planting.

All these bulbs like the kind of open situation in which a rock garden is usually sited, and the good drainage demanded by the rock plants is admirably suited to the bulbs. Sunny, sheltered pockets in front of rocks are easily made for dwarf tulips, irises, crocuses and other kinds which benefit from such preferential treatment.

Planting Flower Bulbs in Beds and Borders

We must then make sure that the soil conditions are satisfactory. Beds and borders need to be dug over deeply and a check made that the drainage is adequate. The soil texture can be greatly improved by forking in a dressing of horticultural peat at the rate recommended by the supplier. Make sure, though, that the peat is well saturated with water before it is worked into the soil. A dressing of bonemeal or hoof and horn scattered on the surface at the same time, at the rate of 4oz. per square yard, and forked in with the peat, will do much to ensure success in future. Fresh manure should never be placed in direct contact with bulbs, but it can most profitably be incorporated below the planting level.

Planting depths and distances vary considerably for different bulbs, corms and tubers, as one would expect bearing in mind their ultimate dimensions, and I have given these details in the notes on individual plants. Planting times, too, should be kept to as closely as possible. It is worth mentioning that any bulbs which are particularly sensitive to moisture – and therefore rotting – should be bedded on sand when they are planted. Gladioli and lilies are two kinds which need such attention in most soils.

When bulbs used for spring bedding displays have finished flowering they have to be lifted to make way for summer bedding subjects. As I have already stressed, it is important that bulbs should be allowed to complete their growth cycle and so ripen off the bulbs completely. The answer in this case is to move the plants to a reserve bed in some secluded part of the garden where the soil is of good quality and they can then be lined out in shallow trenches; the soil being well firmed around them. The soil must be kept moist and in dry weather this may well necessitate watering.

When the foliage withers, usually by about late June, the bulbs can be lifted and dried out slowly in a cool, airy shed or room. Lifting must be done with care so that the bulbs are not pierced with the fork or spade. Before storing in boxes remove old roots and other extraneous material and place all diseased bulbs on one side for immediate destruction. Old tomato trays make very serviceable containers for bulbs and these must be stacked, until use, in a cool, airy place.

Naturally you do not lift bulbs like crocuses, daffodils, muscari and so on which are growing in beds among shrubs or other permanent plantings. These can be left for several years at least without disturbance.

29. September 2010 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Bulbous Plants, Gardening Ideas, Plants & Trees, Rockery Garden | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Planting Flower Bulbs in the Rock Garden and Beds and Borders


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