Spring Blooming Bulbs – April to June Spring Bulbs
Spring Blooming Bulbs – April to June Spring Bulbs
I have arranged my selection ofinto three main groups, according to their flowering time.
- Winter Flowering bulbs – January-March
- Spring blooming bulbs – April-June
- Summer blooming bulbs – June-September
The first of the allium blooming bulbs appear in spring, and what a fine collection there is. There are scores of them, ranging from a few centimetres to nearly a metre in height. All are characterized by a ball of flower on a single stem, and they come in almost any colour you care to name. Many are edible, but here we are concerned with the purely ornamental varieties. They are all hardy, and all very easy to grow. Flowering begins in May or June and, by careful selection of varieties for succession, will go on until autumn. Many make excellent and long-lasting cut .
One of the tallest of the allium bulbs is also one of the earliest: Allium aflatunense, up to 1m (3ft), has lilac flowers in May and June. Allium albopilosum, violet, also in June, is slightly shorter but marvellous for cutting. Others are Allium cyaneum, dark blue (June) and good for the rockery, Allium giganteum, well over 1m (3ft), with violet flowers in July. Allium pulchellum opens in August and is distinguished by its pyramid-shaped violet flower head.
So many forms of lily spring blooming bulbs are available that one could easily be forgiven for taking no notice of the lovely May-flowering erythronium. But do try some if you can get them, particularly Erythronium californicum, the trout lily. ‘White Beauty’ is, I think, the best of them all: 30cm (ift) high, producing several yellow-centred white flowers, turning to lilac as they fade. The leaves are mottled brown.
The fritillarias, with their graceful little nodding heads of bloom – some of them not so little, either – will bring perfume and beauty to the garden from April – so they are truly some of the best spring blooming bulbs. They are not the cheapest of spring bulbs to buy though, nor indeed the easiest to grow. You could say they are temperamental, for undoubtedly they react to and position and in general not all that kindly. The real secret is . Sand or gravel will encourage them, but it seems to be a matter of pure chance whether they will take to a shady position, which you might think they would prefer, or a sunny one.
Fritillaria imperialis, or crown imperial, is the best known and most widely grown in Britain. The flowers are in various shades of red, orange and yellow, but one problem is that the bulbs are very susceptible to damp – hence, partly, the importance of good drainage. They like to be well bedded down, about 20cm (8in) below the surface, and if they survive the spring rains will bring colour and a delicious perfume to the garden in April.
Hyacinthus – Hyacinth
Hyacinths are among the oldest established of all our garden flowers. They were known to the Romans, who grew them for their perfume, and they have been in cultivation in Europe for more than four centuries. They are available in five main shades: pink, red, white, blue and yellow, and there are early, mid- and late-season varieties. There are so many it is best to make your choice from a good catalogue, but among the best known earlier are ‘Pink Pearl’ and ‘Anna Marie’ (pink), ‘Jan Bos’ and ‘La Victoire’ (red), ‘Mme Kruger’ (white) and `Bismarck’ (blue). Mid-season favourites include ‘Lady Derby’ (pink), ‘l’ Innocence’ (white), ‘Delft Blue’ and ‘Myosotis’ (blue) and ‘Yellow Hammer’ (yellow). Later ones are ‘Queen of the Pinks’ (pink), ‘King of the Blues’ (blue) and ‘City of Haarlem’ (yellow). It may be significant that most of those mentioned date from the early days of the century and some (‘Lady Derby’, ‘l’ innocence’, ‘King of the Blues’ and ‘Bismarck’) are over too years old, with ‘City of Haarlem’ not far behind. No criticism of the modern ones – it is just that these are still such wonderfully good bulbs.
Although they do give such a marvellous display, hyacinths are somewhat temperamental spring bulbs. A light, sandy soil suits them best, and they also prefer a sunny position. But it is the aftercare that is the really important factor, unless you want to go to the expense of buying in new bulbs at frequent intervals. Although the spring blooming bulbs replenish themselves, they will not do so well if left in the ground. Lift them as soon as the leaves have died down, store them in a cool, dry and well ventilated place, and replant them in September or October, pricking over the soil first to ensure that it is loose enough for them to bed in properly. The trick is to ensure that the roots can get a good hold and take in the food required, for hyacinths are deep rooting and do not like being confined.
Muscari – Grape hyacinth
The great appeal of these plants, to me, is their dwarf stature. I doubt whether they get above 12cm (5in) – and how well they go with primroses and the crocuses. Get a planting of these three spring blooming bulbs and you will have a picture that will keep your memory happy all through the rest of the year. There are many varieties of these spring blooming bulbs, all predominantly blue, with the characteristic grapelike bunching. Most notable are ‘Blue Pearl’ and ‘Heavenly Blue’.
Muscari plumosum is the one exception to this. It develops curious feather-like filaments (it is called the feather hyacinth), providing a most unusual sight. You may have difficulty in getting it, but it is well worth trying. Because of the ‘upturned crinoline’ effect, which causes an unusual spread, remember to plant these about double the normal distance apart, so that they do not overcrowd each other.
Narcissus – Daffodil Bulbs
Perhaps the big surprise about is that far more of them are grown in Britain than in the Netherlands, home of the spring bulb industry, and thousands are exported there. The Dutch are actually Britain’s biggest foreign customers for ! One of my favourites is ‘Peeping Tom’, a bright gold, early-flowering variety that stands about 30cm (1ft) high. Well named indeed, for a spot just in front of or behind a rockery. ‘February Gold’ is another, slightly smaller, and flowering at the same time. Then there are the sweetly perfumed jonquils – ‘Golden Sceptre’ and ‘Suzy’ are excellent varieties here. ‘Golden Harvest’ is one of the early giants, a big yellow-trumpeted variety standing at about 40cm (16in), and for contrast at this time there is the little white trumpet ‘W. R. Milner’, only 20cm (8in) high.
Among the mid-season spring blooming bulbs are ‘King Alfred’ and ‘Unsurpassable’, both about 45cm (16in), with yellow trumpets; ‘Carlton’ and ‘Ice Follies’ – about the same height – among the large cupped; and Narcissus poeticus actaea, one of the pheasant’s eye types. Double-flowered varieties come a little later. Among the stalwarts here are ‘Texas’, with lovely orange cups, and ‘Cheerfulness’ and ‘Yellow Cheerfulness’.
Like most other bulbs, daffodils are very easily grown. They are, of course, hardy, as spring-flowering bulbs must be. They like a well drained soil – dampness is well nigh fatal – but will flourish almost anywhere, with the reservation that acid soil should have a dressing of lime. Plant the Poeticus varieties first; August is about the best month. The others can go in at any time up to mid or even late October, while the soil is still warm. You can leave the bulbs in the ground, but divide them after three or four years once the leaves have died down and, unless you have full facilities for drying and storing, replant them as soon as possible.
Ornithogalum – Star of Bethlehem
Like the hyacinth, this is prolific in the number of its varieties. With my soil they take over where the daffodils leave off and last well into June, and I have heard of their lasting even longer, into early autumn in some cases. One thing I have discovered is that they make a graceful table decoration, and they are long lasting in water.
One very popular variety, 0rnithogalum thrysoides, is better known as the chincherinchee. This will grow beautifully indoors and proves its use as a cut flower by lasting for three weeks or a month. Unfortunately, it is not hardy out of doors, and needs replenishing every year.
Tulipa – Tulip
The choice of tulips is bewildering, for there are known to be over 4,000 varieties in commerce, increasing all the time, and these are broken down into more than twenty types. The amateur need not worry about all of these, but it will help to remember the flowering periods. Thus the Kaufmannianas (sometimes out in March or early April) and the single and double earlies, generally mid to late April, are short-stemmed varieties, rarely more than 35 cm (14in). At this time also come the Fosterianas, with huge red blooms up to 15cm (6in) across.
The mid-season varieties (early May) are mostly the Mendels, between 35 and 50cm (14 and 20in), and are used for forcing. The big ones arrive in mid-May: the Darwins and Darwin hybrids being the tallest, best known, and probably most weatherproof. They stand over 6ocm (2ft) tall. The lily-flowered varieties have pointed blooms, long and narrow. Cottage, or single lates, are mainly large flowered and some have three blooms per stem. The Parrots are easily distinguished by their frilled or scalloped edges. They have a fault in that the stem is weak, so the blooms tend to fall over, but they are excellent for cutting.
Rembrandts and Bizarres have streaks or stripes of colour, and the Greigiis have large, bi-coloured flowers, usually orange and scarlet. The Greigiis have been crossed with Kaufmannianas, and the resultant hybrid is one of the most popular newcomers to the scene.
The petals open out flat when in full bloom, so it is often known as the water-lily tulip. Not my favourite: in my opinion it is a shame that they should look prematurely blown.
Because of the vast list of varieties, of which I think few are household names, I mention none here because I feel it would not mean much. To know the types and their characteristics is the main thing; the varieties themselves are obviously fairly even and I am sure you will not go far wrong whichever you choose.
Tulips differ from other popular bulbs as most of them do not need lifting, but they are susceptible to a fungus disease known as tulip-fire. Affected plants must be lifted and destroyed, and the ground must not be used for tulips for at least three years afterwards.
A more pleasing factor is that tulips go with so many other plants, and especially with other bulbs. Tulips and hyacinths look magnificent together. Tulips can he planted later than daffodils or hyacinths – up to the first frosts -and most of them are hardy, although they relish some protection and prefer a sunny spot. All you really have to do is decide on your planting plan – the colour combinations, for instance – and leave them to get on with it!
The main point to bear in mind is that heights and colours should vary. Get a contrasting colour adjacent if possible, but one that does not clash. A low-growing border plant, for example, makes a good foil to one of the taller daffodils or tulips.
Also see: summer flowering bulbs