How to plan your spring garden: Expert guide to planting spring bulbs

Gardening tips: How to layer bulbs in a pot

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Spring may seem like a while away as the icy winter winds continue to whip through the already cold air, but this crucial season for gardening will come around sooner than you think. With many spring bulbs ready to be planted out there is no time like the present to begin planning your spring garden flower display. spoke to gardening and biodiversity expert Carol Adams to find out exactly how to perfect your spring landscape.

Winter is the perfect time to prepare your garden for the brighter spring months.

Getting everything from your lawn to your beds and borders ready for the vibrant seasonal blooms is crucial to perfecting the landscape of your garden in time for the warmer March weather.

As the frosty weather continues to settle, it’s your last chance to get hardy spring bulbs established before the peak of winter arrives – but planting bulbs is just half of the battle.

Clever landscaping is also required to allow the delicate pastel hues and green stems of your 2022 flowers to thrive – and gardening expert, Carol Adams has shared her top tips to perfect your spring display.

Group your bulbs

Carol Adams, Head of Biodiversity and Horticulture at the 725-acre Trentham Estate, in Staffordshire told “At this stage in season, choose bigger bulbs – things like Hyacinths, Tulips, alliums, Crown Imperial and Camassia, rather than smaller bulbs which are better planted earlier in season.”

Larger bulbs will produce bigger and better flowers with multiple stems able to grow from the same bulb.

Layering bulbs for a more voluminous display is one way to bulk up the aesthetic of your spring blooms said Carol, adding: “Bulbs can be grouped and layered in pots, often referred to as a ‘bulb lasagne’ but they can also be mixed beautifully in the ground.”

Experiment with contrasting varieties

Layering and mixing different blooms is a great way to fill a large surface area with a variety of shades and species of flowers.

At Trentham Estate, the sprawling acres of award-winning gardens feature tulips and other species mixed and planted through herbaceous perennials to create an effortless display of contrasting colours and shapes.

To replicate this in your own garden, Carol recommended using a mixture of early (late march-April) and late season (Late April-mid May) flowers to experiment with your own grouped displays.

She said: “Think about choosing shorter varieties to flower first and then taller later varieties to come up through and partially hide.

“Then mix up the colours, maybe go with colours that are in the same area on colour wheel (harmony) or opposite (complimentary).

“At Trentham, we like to do harmonies as the main theme in a bed but we normally always choose an accent in one of the opposite colours e.g. add a bit of yellow if the scheme is purples add some orange if it’s mainly blue.”

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Get the density right

Avoid waiting for seeds and bulbs to naturally spread across a bed and take charge of the planting.

Carol explained: “Try and target an area and do it well instead. E.g. pick a section of a border or maybe the front meter and go for that as this year’s phase.

“Choose your colour palette, then pick your early and late highlight bulb variety, that will be the anchor, a mid-height relatively common variety so you get good quality value for money in volume.”

Carol’s top tips for getting the density of your spring bulbs right include:

  • For a small area of bed, use three packs/30 bulbs in one colour
  • Choose two different varieties of the same bulb to flower at the same time of year but with slightly different colourings – for example, striped, fringed, frilled or double tulips
  • Use a height variance of between five to 10cm
  • Add three varieties of late flowering bulbs that will overlap – you could include a narcissus and one to two earlier bulbs, like Hyacinth

How to plant a spring flower display

Carol explained: “Scatter your main bulb evenly across the planting space, then add the other varieties one at a time scattered across the surface to get a relatively even distribution – they don’t want to be closer than twice their width to each other.

“Once all scattered, start methodically planting, putting them at twice the bulbs height below the ground.”

How to make the most of your garden space

Using your lawn to create a bulb picture is a great way to inject some colour into the green grass of your garden.

Lightly fork over the ground and scatter over the selected bulb – crocus are great, grape hyacinths and scilla are other good options with compact growth and bold colour, said Carol.

Plant densely with a one to two-centimetre gap between each bulb, push into the soil and recover with turf.

Carol’s top tips for planting a diverse spring garden include:

  • Look at grouping pots by a door or window – some bulbs have lovely scent as you brush past them
  • Use bulbs to create a green roof on a bin bag or shed roof to give bees an early spring boost of sugary nectar
  • Look to take photos in spring to ID where you have gaps
  • Get out to a good bulb festival and see lots of varieties growing to get ideas on colour schemes and combinations for your home
  • Carol added: “Trentham Estate will be showcasing bulbs in pots, perennial plantings and naturalised in lawns with the first snowdrops and cyclamen expected in February and the displays peaking in April and early May.
  • “We planted over 30,000 bulbs this autumn in addition to over 100,000 bulbs planted in recent years.”

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