Page 3, 16th September 1949

16th September 1949
Page 3
Page 3, 16th September 1949 — BULBS AND RELATED PLANTS

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RULBS are popular—there is no doubt about that. But their very popularity causes them to be under-rated. If we use bulbs for formal spring bedding (as in a combination of tulips and wallflowers), well and good. If we prefer to have our bulbs here and there among shrubs with well concealed planning, that can be very attractive. But this by no means reveals what

bulbs are capable of. I hope to throw out a few suggestions here; no attempt will be made to catalogue all possibilities or name all names, for that is better done by reading a book or one of the very inviting catalogues issued by bulb specialists. And if I mention a few varieties, that is simply a jotting down of a few of my own favourites. Others will prefer a different selectioq.

It should be said right away that bulbs are usually very easy to grow. After all, the bulb is a bud containing all the leaves and flowers when you buy it, together with enough food to start the new plant on its way. Moreover, most bulbs are very hardy; if started off in the right conditions the majority can be left for many years without disturbance to look after themselves. It is the few exceptions (of which the tulip and gladiolus can be named as examples) which make people think that there is a lot of fuss attached to bulb-growing. Moreover, there are bulbs suitable for practically all conditions from cool and moist situations to those which are hot and dry.


I should like to plead for some of the newer varieties. We are all ready to say we prefer the old favourites, and in this we are mostly mistaken. The "old, old" daffodils we prefer are mostly of recent origin, and very different from the wild plant of the native woodlands. We ought therefore to see the possibilities of some newer sorts which cornbine the old elegance with new charms. A random selection of my own, including all types from trumpets to tazetta, would include King Alfred, Bernardino, Spring Glory, Laurens Koster. Glory of Lisse, Firetail, Brilliancy, Cheerfulness, Lady Diana Manners, Nobility, Primrose Phoenix, Orange Flyer, Grand Primo and Buttercup. This is a long list; those who want to bed out bulbs will need to select one or two sorts and get a lot of those; but I hope others will be induced to buy about three bulbs each of several different kinds, so as to sec what can be done with a few tiny pockets of these lovely flowers between shrubs or tall-growing herbaceous plants. Once the bulbs are in they are left to their own devices. The only things I should mention are that they will appreciate humus, should not have their leaves cut off after flowering, and should be lifted only after several years when it is clear that the clump is pressed for space. Then you will find you have many small bulbs for planting in drifts. Most of these will flower the year after, anyway. These general observations apply to nearly all hardy bulbs. Even tulips (especially the rock-garden species) can be treated thus; but as tulips are used so much in bedding schemes, the bulbs are usually lifted each year.


Without making any attempt at enumeration I should like to emphasise how hardy are such plants as hyacinths and most lilies. They can he counted on to bloom freely. very often at times which are awkward for other flowers. The number of lily species suitable for British gardens is beyond telling. New species are introduced constantly, and among the old ones there are types which like our whole range of climates. Some have actually naturalised themselves. If you find one sort does not do well with you, try another. You are sure to find your particular lily.

Among the smaller bulbs we can mention not only the usual types of crocus, snowdrops and bluebells, but also some of the even more attractive things such as chionodoxa, iris reticulate, ixia in variety, and anemone. Do not think I am running down the common kinds! They are wonderful; but even among the crocuses the neglected species called C. tommasinianus sends up a profusion of amethyst-to-lilac stars with most vivid orange anthers. To me it seems easier to grow than the ordinary sorts. Then chionodoxa, especially where naturalised, is amazingly beautiful. The robust St. Brigid anemones are pretty in their way, but such species as A. appenina and fulgens are superior. The iris called I. unguicularis (stylosa) is not a bulb. but it flowers from January onwards and is functionally in the same group.


It is almost certain that disappointment would result from sowing the seeds of named varieties of bulbs; but many species produce an abundance of reliable seed. The little Crocus tommasinianus just mentioned has produced many hundreds of seedlings in my garden which flower very soon in an extended range of shades. Anemones are very easily grown from seed and are also quick to flower. Even some lilies oblige in this way, L. regale coming to bloom in about two or three years from seed. But the best results with many small bulbs and corms are obtained where a small clump is encouraged to scatter its fresh seed in the vicinity. until a natural-looking drift is established. It goes without saying that the best way of starting is with bought bulbs, From these you will soon have seed enough, which you can sow at the exact moment of ripeness. The good gardener is one who tries everything, and anyone who looks into an up-todate bulls catalogue will certainly feel eager to try what he can do with some of the good things described there.


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