Bulbs for all seasons

Chris Ireland-Jones of Avon Bulbs arrived with trays of snowdrops like I have never seen before and beautiful Cyclamen coum in full flower. The room filled with members and newcomers whilst Wendy did a roaring trade in the kitchen with hot drinks and Sandra’s delicious home baked biscuits. Eventually we were all settled, the lights went off and we were led into the exciting world of bulbs!

First lesson “a gardener in a hurry should always buy big bulbs”. Then Chris gave us plenty of examples we can plant for year round colour, for example:

Nerine bowdenii. This can be slow to flower in its early years in a garden but given a couple of years, once the bulbs become congested, it will produce a mass of bright flowers. Books say it likes a dry border but actually it will need a warm spot with well drained but moisture retentive soil.
N. ‘Pink Surpise’ – white with a soft pink hue
N. ‘Zeal Giant’ – sturdy tall stem, cerise pink flowers

Sternbergia lutea

Cyclamen coum

Iris unguicularis, also know as Iris stylosa.  Flowers in 3’s, do not cut the foliage back hard in the summer, try: Marondera; I. ‘Walter Buff’ (which is scented); I. stylosa Alba; I. ‘Mary Barnard’; I. ‘Bob Thompson’ ; I. ‘Abbingdon Purple’.

Aconites (Eranthus Hyemalis)which are good in grass, try: E. ‘Schwefelglanz’ (a very soft yellow); E. ‘Guinea Gold’

Snowdrops (Galanthus): there are 100’s of varieties and Chris suggests that G. ‘S Arnott’ is probably a very good one if you are overwhelmed by the choice! If you regularly split and replant it you can achieve a large carpet.

Otherwise you can try: G.’Armine’; G. elwesii ‘Monostictus’ (a nice broad leaf); G. ‘George Elwes’; G. ‘Highdown’; G. ‘Benhall Beauty’ OR

Unusual types of snowdrops: G. ‘Art Nouveau’; G. ‘Comet’; G. ‘Trym’ Doubles: G. ‘Mrs Thompson’, G. ‘Lady Beatrix’; G. ‘Stanley’; G. ‘Hippolyta’

Yellow snowdrops are slower to bulk up and do better on acid soils, try: G. Sandersii; G. ‘Primrose ‘Walburg’

I think I am becoming a galanthophile!

Crocus are always great early in the year

Narcissus are another huge range of plants which can flower from Christmas until May starting with the very early flowering daffodil (as in Yeovil): Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ and finishing with the dainty N. poeticus.

The muscari family provide some lovely low blue flowered bulbs which are great for setting off larger or brighter bulbs (e.g. Erythronium dens canis, Narcissus, Crocus…). They are relatively cheap and are good for block planting / infill.

Look out for varieties that have an Award of Garden Merit (AGM) such as Muscari ‘Jenny Robinson’, Muscari latifolia and Scilla bithynica. (some Muscari are scented)

April / May
Tulips, there are 100’s to choose from but remember that they don’t like heavy soil nor wet summers and are difficult to keep going for more than 2-3 years. A good alternative is Camassia leichtlinii which is happy with heavy soil, sun or semi shade.

Allium ‘Globemaster’ which has sterile flowers and therefore the flower lasts 3 times as long as its shorter relative Allium ’Christophii’.

Summer flowering bulbs
These tend to come from the southern hemisphere for example:
From Africa: Galtonia; Crocosmia; Eucomis (very hardy pineapple lily); Gladeolus bizantanus; Dierama; Agapanthus

From America: Dichelostema; Alstroemeria; Dahlia (nice varieties D. ‘Nuit d’Ete’, D. ‘Magenta Star’; D. ‘Twinings After’)

From Asia: Canna, Lilies, Roscoea.
We were given a tip on how to treat lily beetle: apply the systemic insecticide Provado twice in a season, this will reduce the pest particularly in the second year.

For more informations visit