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’.