Bulbs planted now transform the spring and early summer garden, some also being good for displaying in the home.
September-sown hardy annual flowers neatly fill borders until the summer flowers get going. Sadly, box tree caterpillars have devastated box in some regions and alternative plants must be considered.
1 — Early and late daffodils
Most daffodils flower in March and April, but extending the season earlier and later by choosing suitable cultivars is easy; “Tamara” and “Treglisson” provide golden trumpets in late winter, “Standard Value” is one of the latest yellow trumpets flowering in late April. For May, “Pheasants Eye”, white with yellow and red cup, and the small multi-flower yellow “Hawera” are invaluable.
‘Mount Blanc’ carries white flowers on 130cm stems and mixes well with purple ‘Summer Drummer’ (Photo: RHS)
2 — Hardy “onions”
These reliable, long-lasting bulbs planted now can transform summer gardens. “Mount Blanc” carries white flowers on 130cm stems and mixes well with purple “Summer Drummer”. For unusual heads, 90cm “Mohican” has a red top knot to its ball of white tipped flowers and “Hair” carries purple centred flowers with green extensions on 60cm stems.
3 — Cut flower bulbs
Cut flowers from inexpensive bulbs planted now include ranunculus with very early flowers, often double, in red, pink, yellow and white. Anemone coronaria flowers very early in reds, pinks, whites, purples and blues. Rain and late frosts can harm them so protection with cloches or in a greenhouse is helpful. Freesia, being slightly more tender, must be grown indoors if they are to bear mauve, red, pink, white and yellow April flowers.
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4 — Camellias, pieris and rhododendrons
These shrubs form flower buds in late summer and early autumn that will open next spring. In dry soils, buds can fail to form or abort. Watering can save disappointment next spring. Plants growing in containers and newly planted ones are especially vulnerable. For border plants, about four watering cans per square metre may be needed to wet the root zone. Adding fertiliser can inhibit flower bud formation and is best delayed until spring.
5 — Overwintered annuals
Hardy plants such as calendula, honesty, love-in-a-mist, larkspur and poppies can be sown now in sheltered but well-drained, bright places with moderate fertility to overwinter as seedlings. Growth will take off once spring weather arrives leading to lavish early summer flowers. Sowing in rows makes best use of seeds and allows weeding unlike broadcasting seeds.