Garden designer, Joy Grey tells us now is the time to buy your spring-flowering bulbs. They’ll herald an end to dark winter days, bringing a bright splash of colour to the garden when few other plants are in flower.

Bulbs and corms have much to commend them. They’re easy to grow, inexpensive and there is a bulb to suit every situation in your garden. Plus, they’re perennial meaning they will re-flower for several years given the right conditions.

Before buying, check the bulbs are healthy, feel firm and plump, with no signs of damage or premature growth. Discard any that are soft, shrivelled or mouldy. If pre-packed have a good feel through the packaging to check for squishiness! For sheer flower power, bulbs are the cheapest plants available, so don’t stint on the quantities you plant. Even in small gardens, massed plantings of a limited number of varieties is always most effective. In pots allow for a dozen tulips per 30cm container.

Remove weeds and incorporate lots of compost or other organic matter. In heavy soils, dig in horticultural grit. Bulbs grown in pots need good drainage so put plenty of crocks in the bottom of a pot with drainage holes. Use two parts John Innes No 2 with one part horticultural grit. As a rule of thumb, plant bulbs in September and October with the exception of tulips which must wait for cooler weather in November to avoid the Tulip Fire disease. Always wear gloves when handling bulbs to avoid skin irritation. Bulbs should be planted in holes three to four times as deep as the bulb itself. If you’re not sure which way up to plant the bulb – don’t worry just plant it on its side and the stem will find its own way up!

A hand trowel is fine for planting a few bulbs but for more consider using a long-handled bulb planter. Push the planter into the ground, twist and pull out a core of soil. Drop the bulb into the hole and crumble the plug of soil to fill the hole. After planting you might want to protect bulbs from foraging squirrels and rodents by putting a sheet of chicken wire over the top. This saves the bulbs from being disturbed and can be removed when growth appears in late winter. If planting bulbs into a lawn make them look as natural as possible by throwing gently into the air and plant where they land, repeating in several places across your lawn.

Once flowered leave the foliage for at least six weeks so that it can help to store energy for flowering again next year. Do not cut green foliage off or tie it in a knot! Left in the ground, tulips degenerate each year until they die; lifted, stored and replanted the following November they re-flower well. After flowering, remove the seed head and wait for the foliage to yellow and die back, then lift, clean off any soil and store in a cool, dry place.

Buy bulbs from your local nursery, some have a better selection than others. Or buy online from the following:

Bloms Bulbs | 01234 709099 |
Crocus | 0844 557 2233|
Gee Tee Bulbs Company |
Jacques Amand | 020 8420 7110 |
J Parker | 0161 848 110 |
Sarah Raven | 0345 092 0283 |
Thompson and Morgan | 01473 688821 |
Van Meuwen | 0870 2411 854 |


The Grey Cottage, Goose Green, Gullane EH31 2AT | t: 01620 842866 | m: 07971163565 | e: