“What, now!? It’s only just summer,” I hear you cry. But yes, indeed, this is the ideal time to consider how you would like your garden to look next spring. All of the spring bulbs I planted in autumn have now bloomed, and I can see where they worked well, where I had gaps, and what I’d like to change for next year. Ordering now means you’ll get the best pick of bulbs before other people snaffle up the best ones, and you might benefit from early bird discounts.
Last autumn, I was fortunate to be gifted a huge box of tulip and allium bulbs from Peter and Ben Rotteveel who run Dutch Grown, which is based in Holland as you have likely assumed. They asked me if I’d like to review their bulbs, as they have launched UK deliveries this year.
My top bit of advice about buying spring bulbs is to say cheaper is rarely better. Bulbs bought from the supermarkets or pound shops may seem like good value, but they will be smaller, shorter and pack much less punch than bulbs from a reputable grower. To quote Peter,
“When it comes to flower bulbs, size matters.”
Top grade bulbs are larger, essentially. The Allium ‘Gladiator’ bulbs that Peter and Ben sent me were so big, I exclaimed “Phwoar!” when I got them out. I had to expand the hole made by my bulb planter!
They really did make for a truly impressive display, as you’ll see from the photos. Indeed, I had so many wonderful comments from my neighbours about the tulips and alliums as they popped up in the front garden, that my smugness and pride became quite unbearable. Pictured below are Tulip ‘Sky High Scarlett’ that I planted in November. Not my usual colour scheme, but I was blown away by how good they looked.
After the tulips were over, they were quickly followed by the impressively tall Allium ‘Gladiator’, which beautifully complimented the orange Geums that started flowering at the same time.
And for those of you who, like me, are sometimes rather slack with your bulb planting, I confess that I forgot to plant some of these in autumn and discovered them in the garage in late winter. In desperation, and with my usual gardening attitude of ‘sod the rules, let’s just do it and see what happens’, I actually planted the tulips below (‘Whispering Dream’ and ‘Pays Bas’) on the last day of February. Cue more smugness… they came up a treat!
I can unreservedly recommend Dutch Grown bulbs as the best I have ever planted in my garden or in clients’ gardens. They’re so good, in fact, that I have used some of my own hard earned money to order next springs’ bulbs.
Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’ and A. cristophii (pictured top) are my favourite alliums. They should be planted in a sunny spot, and look best in large numbers, scattered through a border, amongst low shrubs, ornamental grasses and perennials. This will hide the foliage, which gets tatty by the time the flowers are up.
For tulips, buy whatever variety takes your fancy and plants loads! Like alliums, these are best scattered through a border in my opinion, as if you clump them, you’ll end up with gaps when the flowers are over. My favourites are ‘Queen of Night’, ‘Angelique’ and ‘Spring Green’. You can also combine two or three varieties with different colours and flower forms. The easiest way to do this successfully is to buy a ‘collection’ – the grower will have selected varieties of tulips that work well together in terms of colour and flowering time. I’ve ordered a collection called ‘Peony Party’.
So, if you’re sat indoors because it’s raining, and you can’t get out into the garden, take a few minutes to place your spring bulb order, and you too can enjoy that wonderful feeling of smug satisfaction that you’ve beaten the crowds to the best bulbs.