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There is probably not a home in Britain that cannot contain a few bulbs (I am using the term loosely to include corms and tubers as well). Even if you have no garden at all you can force them in pots for indoor decoration. Given a reasonable amount of care, these little powerpacks of colour will reward you handsomely.

uses. To fill whole beds, borders and other areas for spring display. In groups and clumps in between other plants. Spring bulbs (excluding tulips) can be planted under trees to provide early colour.

In tubs, pots, window boxes and other containers for outdoor (or, in some cases, indoor) decoration.

In rows in the vegetable garden for cutting.

Smaller growing bulbs may be planted in the rockery.

To naturalize in informal borders and rough grass areas (spring bulbs only).

advantages. They are easy to grow and most of them require little attention once correctly planted.

They quickly increase in numbers to provide additional stock if required.

They can be planted between other permanent subjects without fear of overcrowding as their foliage dies down for a large part of the year.

They are widely obtainable from a variety of sources.

disadvantages. The foliage should be left on the plant to die down after the flower has faded (or for at least 6 weeks in the case of strong growing ones such as daffodils), to build up food reserves in the bulb for the following year. As it yellows it looks increasingly untidy.

Naturalized in grass, bulbs prevent the grass from being mown until their leaves can be trimmed off.

Many summer-flowering bulbs are not entirely hardy in this country and have to be lifted in the autumn. Large-flowered hybrid tulips deteriorate unless regularly lifted. They will not tolerate very damp or waterlogged conditions.

Choosing bulbs

Healthy bulbs should be firm, not at all soft when squeezed gently, have no damaged or diseased patches or mouldy parts, and wherever possible, be as large as you can get them, according to variety. Do not plant bulbs that are not in first-class condition — at best they will not do much and at worst they can introduce all kinds of problems.


Grow bulbs for formal bedding in straight rows and blocks, otherwise plant in clumps, spaced out according to type and variety.


Bulbs for naturalizing schemes can be positioned in large areas by throwing handfuls and planting them where they fall.

All bulbs like good, well prepared soil, and as much attention should be given to the site as for any other type of plant.

Make sure they are planted deep enough and at the correct time of year. Autumn-planted bulbs should be given a slow, high-phosphate fertilizer (bone-meal or similar), and spring and summer planted ones the correct amount of a balanced feed.

Bulbs for indoor cultivation in winter are planted in bowls of bulb fibre from August onwards and placed in a cool dark place until the flower buds are showing in the neck of the bulb. The compost is kept damp but not soggy. The pots are then gradually accustomed to conditions of warmth and light.

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