The bulb and the beautiful

In bloom: Bulbs are often planted en masse in a single variety, but they can have a lovely countryside look when mixed together, like these daffodils, tulips and hyacinths. Photo: iStock.

In bloom: Bulbs are often planted en masse in a single variety, but they can have a lovely countryside look when mixed together, like these daffodils, tulips and hyacinths. Photo: iStock.

With proper care bulbs can be salvaged and planted again the following year. - Jess Cockerill

Autumn brings fallen leaves and morning chill to mind, but I know the season’s really come when the local gardening store has a fresh stock of spring flowering bulbs come in.

Start bedding your bulbs from late-March through to mid-May.

Spring flowering bulbs include daffodils and their miniature look-alikes jonquils, freesias, tulips, gladioli, hyacinths, bluebells, Star of Bethlehem, ranunculi, irises, and anemones.

Though they die back at the end of spring, with proper care bulbs can be salvaged and planted again the following year.

You can buy them from nurseries, garden societies, mail order and plant sales: make sure you choose full, firm bulbs free of soft spots or mouldy smells.

Some bulbs – gladioli, for instance – will benefit from a week or two in the refrigerator before planting, to mimic the cold snaps of their European heritage.

Check the package on each variety or ask your local garden specialist on whether this is right for your bulbs.

Bulbs can be planted into the ground, though more delicate varieties – hyacinths, tulips, and irises for instance – may do better in pots.

Either way, you need to ensure they are in full sun, the soil has good drainage, and has been mixed with some light, nutritious compost.

Plant them twice as deep as the bulb itself is wide, with the pointed end upwards (except ranunculi, which oddly go the other way up).

Bulbs can look fantastic in mass plantings, or mixed in with other varieties, depending on the desired effect.

For a more orderly garden design, try planting rows according to height, layering purples and yellows, or for a romantic cottage look, try planting them in waves of pink, yellow, blue and white.

Feed only once after planting to avoid too much leaf growth in the early days, so that all the stored energy goes into flowering.

After the spring blooms start to fail, feed them generously, and resist cutting off the leaves, which are sending energy to be stored in the bulb for next year.

Once the foliage is fully yellowed, you can fork the bulbs back out of the ground.

Dust the dirt off, cut the leaves back to about 10 centimetres, and store them in a dark in a paper bag for next year.

Do you have a gardening question for Jess? Call 9550 2409 or send your queries to jess.cockerill@fairfax media.com.au

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