Dutch courage: Eden Project drafts in 25,000 bulbs from Holland in a bid to brighten up Britain's street corners
Sunday 20 September 2009
The Eden Project's creator, Tim Smit, absolutely loves to get people together (maybe, as a Dutchman, he thinks we uptight Brits need a bit of Netherlandish help to love our local communities). Earlier this summer, he was all about the Big Lunch, where we were encouraged to close down local traffic and hold a street party with our neighbours. And now, as autumn rolls in, it's the Big Bulb Plant.
Eden definitely sets a good example when it comes to bulb planting; its spring display is both outrageously bright and on a huge scale. But when it comes to local communities trying to brighten up their corner of the world, what are the Eden Project's starting tips? Well the first thing is to get over to its Big Bulb Plant website, www.thebigbulbplant.com, where the first hundred communities to register receive a package of 250 free bulbs straight from Holland. There's a poster to print out and put up to publicise your effort, as well as a great video by the prolific garden writer Martyn Cox to reassure the most inexperienced of gardeners that bulb planting is very, very easy.
The next stage is to work out what bulbs you need and in what they are going to be planted. In 2007, one street near me planted tiny daffodils around the base of all the street trees, and the results were really sweet and cheerful. Be prepared to ask permission from your council for planting on public land, but also bear in mind that some councils will give out bulbs for planting by community projects – Dartford in Kent, for example, gives away hundreds of daffs. It's worth doing a bit of research.
On the other hand, if you prefer to choose your bulbs yourself, opt for one of the big bulb companies, possibly even ordering wholesale if your quantities are large enough. Parker's Wholesale offers great prices for bigger orders at www.dutchbulbs.co.uk. You don't even need to have soil to plant in – bulbs grow happily in containers, even in B&Q orange plastic buckets, as long as there is some drainage (that probably means drilling a few holes).
And while the Big Bulb Plant website is relentlessly cheerful about pulling together, I'm going to add one more piece of advice: for maximum impact, some sort of co-ordination is a great idea. Just a single colour restriction will triple the effect of your planting next spring. For example, ask everyone to bring white bulbs only. Or make sure that each container contains either red or yellow. Everyone will look at you strangely right now, but, come spring, hopefully they'll grudgingly admit that you were right.
Beautiful bulbs: Little spend, big impact
The cheapest way to buy daffodils is by weight – Parker's Wholesale does 25 kilos of the gorgeous yellow "St Keverne" for £22. Flowers very early, and you really will need community help to get them all planted. www.dutchbulbs.co.uk
Kids love scented flowers – as do more sophisticated grown-ups. Narcissus "Avalanche" is great in April, at £13.50 for 100. Add some outrageous hyacinths, preferably in Barbie pink. Try "Pink Pearl" (£16 for 100). Both from www.dutch bulbs.co.uk. Also available from www.unwins.co.uk
For a more discreet effect, how about a nautical-themed mix of anemones? Thompson & Morgan's "Blue and White Windflower" (60 bulbs for £9.99) will top off spring tubs perfectly. www.thompson-morgan.com
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