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blog post - war of the weeds



One of my favourite sights of spring are carpets of bulbs, achieved by growing bulbs in my favourite way - naturalising. As opposed to the more formal approach of growing bulbs in herbaceous borders, naturalising bulbs through grass and under trees achieves the laid back look of wild maturity while simultaneously adding light and colour to areas that may otherwise be dull and uninteresting. The key to ‘natural looking’ naturalising is planting lots of bulbs in drifts in the area they will be happiest. In time, they will self seed and divide to bulk up their numbers leading to the carpet effect you find in nature. Spring bulb planting season is upon us so here’s my top picks of the best bulbs for naturalising.

For shady areas of the garden, try easy to grow bulbs such as Galanthus nivalis (snowdrops), Cyclamen coum, Eranthis hyemalis (winter aconites), Chionodoxa forbesii (glory of the snow) and Anemone blanda. These bulbs look great under deciduous trees paired with tall oriental Hellebores in purple or white. Top tip - cut away the leaves of the Hellebores when flowering so you can have an uninterrupted view of not only their flowers but the bulbs beneath! One of my favourite woodlanders is Anemone nemerosa. The wood anemone isn't a bulb but in fact a small herbaceous perennial that grows from a slender rhizome. The beautiful early spring flowers make a fleeting appearance just before the canopy comes in. Top tip - soak them in water overnight before planting to help them establish quicker. And be careful not to drop them, they can be hard to distinguish from twigs!

When it comes to horticulture, I take my inspiration from mother nature and wild landscapes so naturalising bulbs in grass is right up my street. But if you prefer you’re lawn to be more bowling green than woodland meadow, you may want to skip past this part. This is because depending on which species you plant you will most likely need to delay the first cut to (a) enjoy the flowers and (b) allow the leaves to die back naturally ahead of mowing. For a delicate touch in grass areas, try Fritillaria meleagris (snakes head fritillary), Narcissus bulbocodium and Crocus tommasinianus. The bees love this early flowering crocus and the flowers of the hoop petticoat daffodil (Narcissus bulbocodium) aren’t easily recognisable as daffodils though the colour may give them away. For a bolder statement in long grass areas you could try one of my favourite blue bulbs, Camassia leitchlinii (Caerulea Group) planted among white Allium nigrum and the lovely, delicately scented pale lemon yellow of Narcissus ‘Cheerfulness’.

When it comes to daffodils, I’m not a huge fan of the ugly yellow flowered cultivars favoured by councils for use in municipal parks and dual carriage way central reservations. I don't want my garden to remind me of Great Western Road thank you very much! Instead, anything pale yellow or white gets my vote especially the miniature trumpets of Narcissus ‘W.P Milner’ or the multi headed, sweetly scented Narcissus ‘Thalia’.

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