Planting Bulbs in Autumn

October is the time to start planting your spring-flowering bulbs. From the earliest snowdrops to the cheerful daffodils and tulips, there's nothing finer than watching your garden wake up after winter with these colourful harbingers of spring. Bob Willard from deJager, the flower bulb experts gives us his top planting tips and, because there's so much choice out there, we're showcasing some of his favourites from this year's catalogue.

'Preparing the soil correctly is very important'

Most bulbs like plenty of organic matter so dig in some compost before you plant, especially if you have clay soil. Good drainage is essential otherwise the bulbs will rot so make sure you choose a site with good drainage or add sand or grit to the soil.

Where to plant your bulbs

The colourful spring-flowering bulbs can be planted anywhere in your garden, in sun and shade, in borders and terraces, around fences and trees. Some bulbs, such as daffodils, are at there their best when scattered at random giving a natural look. Avoid planting very close to buildings or directly underneath overhanging branches where the bulbs will receive little or no rainwater.

When to plant

It really is best to plant bulbs as soon as you buy them. If you canít, open the bags to allow air to get at them, place them in a cool, well-ventilated area where the temperature is about 60 degrees F.

As a general rule, you can plant spring flowering bulbs any time until frost hardens the ground. Daffodils should be among the first to be planted to get the best results. Other bulbs need not be planted until summer and autumn-flowering bedding plants have finished their display. In mild or warm areas, later planting is possible and can be delayed until December.

Free Planting Guide

Gardenzine's UK readers can get this great planting guide from deJager. The guide gives planting tips for all of the popular bulbs. To get your guide, simply email or phone 01622 840229. Don't forget to leave your address details and they will send you a guide.
Alternatively, you can visit and download a PDF version of the guide.

Judging quality

You can judge the quality of bulbs when you buy them. In the first place, bulb size is very important. As a rule, the largest bulbs will also provide the largest flowers in the spring. Remember that the flower is already stored in these bulbs. For tulips bulb size of 12cm plus (the circumference of the bulbs in centimetres) will give the best results. Daffodil bulbs have several shoots and usually give one flower per shoot.

For some small wild tulips, 6/7cm is a quite suitable bulb size as the wild tulip is the most original form. With hyacinths, a larger bulb will not only produce a bigger plant but also many florets on each raceme. Usual bulb sizes of hyacinths are 15cm and larger.

What depth to plant your bulbs

As to planting depth, a rule-of-thumb is to plant bulbs twice as deep as the bulb is high. If you want another easy rule to remember: plant the base of the bulbs, (the flat side) at a depth of 20cm for larger bulbs and 10cm for smaller bulbs such as anemone, scilla, muscari, snowdrop etc.

Bob's recommendations

Large Trumpet Daffodil Marieke is one of the most perfectly formed daffodils you will ever find. Having a solid yellow trumpet with huge upward facing flowers with a vivid yellow perianth. It flowers during April growing to a height of 45-50cm.

Double Daffodil Sir Winston Churchill is sweetly scented with entirely distinct multi-headed dainty double white flowers with tiny orange yellow petals interspersed in the centre. It is an excellent variety for forcing, flowers in April and grows to 38cm.

Large flowering Dutch Crocus Jeanne Dí Arc is a striking pure white crocus, with large globular shaped flowers. It is very long lasting and highly recommended. It is very easy to grow and will flower and increase year after year. Flowering February-March it grows to a height of 15cm.

Early spring flowering Crocus Ancyrensis is a very early species that may produce 18 to 24 small flowers of brilliant orange-yellow. It is one of the finest, very prolific and ideal for naturalising. Flowers from January through to March and grows to 15-20cm.

Allium Purple Sensation is a most superb variety with very large dense heads of 50 or more star-shaped deep purple flowers. It is excellent for flower arranging. Flowers from May to June and grows to a height between 70 and 90cm.

Iris Unguicularis - this ĎWinter Flowering Irisí has sweetly scented lavender-blue flowers which are produced in abundance. Requires a light soil, and a south facing spot. Flowers November to March and grows to a height of 35cm.

Iris Amber Queen is a dwarf bearded iris. This charming little iris flowers very profusely with lovely primrose yellow flowers with the beard being the same colour as the petals. Flowers from April to May and grows to a height of 20cm.

Support the breast cancer campaign

This beautiful tulip Pink diamond is part of de Jager's 'pink bulb range'.
10% of the sales from these bulbs and others in the pink bulb range will go to the Breast Cancer Campaign charity. For details of the campaign plus the full range of bulbs available by mail order wisit

Bob Wilard is general manager of

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