Purple patch: For a burst of colour next year, get thinking about bulb-planting now


Bad news. It is at this time of year, when we've finally seen some sunshine, that we must forget about tans and start turning our thoughts to wrapping up warm (ugh), going outside in the cold (yikes) and digging several hundred holes in stony frozen soil (blerg). Yep, it's bulb-order time again.

It feels almost impossible to do this sort of mental gymnastics. Twisting your head into the fresh-green tones of spring 2013 requires the sort of double-jointedness normally possessed only by fashion journalists. But do it we must, or we'll spend the late winter feeling regretful about missed opportunities.

And then there's the question of what to twist the mind to. One first rule is that small gardens (and that's what most of us have, being realistic) look better planted with a small palette of colours and a small number of different kinds of bulb. They are not antipasti, tempting though it is to order a bit of everything.

So, first things first, pick a theme – such as pale white with one highlight colour – and stick to it. It makes the whole process of choosing bulbs simpler and less time-consuming, as you can rule out a whole lot of possibilities purely for being the wrong hue.

Then follow through by checking you have a span across the season – starting in February and March with little daffodils and narcissi in whites and yellows, say, and moving through hyacinths, tulips, and finally alliums (above), with a big purple flourish around May. (It's only with these final flowers that you don't get any colour choice: these ornamental onions come in Jimi Hendrix-velvet colours only.)

Alternatively, you could opt for soft spring blues and yellows, using muscari the colour of a 4am June dawn, and bright daffs to evoke the sun to come. The really electric-toned muscari, such as M. armeniacum, are just a tonic, but also a proper bargain at £8.98 for 150 from jparkers.co.uk. These exhilarating flowers do a great job of spreading, so tens become hundreds.

If you really hanker after complicated colour schemes, however, it's best to bring in the experts. Sarah Raven's latest catalogue is full of wild confections such as parrot tulips in an ancient Dutch blood orange streaked with lime green. (Tulip "Orange Favourite" is £8.95 for 15 bulbs at sarahraven.com.)

But the most important lesson when planning your bulb planting is one I have learnt hard, and it has nothing to do with colours at all: the back-breaking work of stumbling out on a cold day to plant bulbs is heartbreaking if you have to do it all again the next November. Plus, to see your beautifully designed display come up just once seems like heresy. So, for a jewelled spring that returns the next year, get the right instrument to plant those bulbs at the specified depth, or possibly even deeper. Try a professional bulb planter with a long handle, and experience that relief that comes with having the right tool for the job.

Three to buy

Dark temptations

Avon Bulbs' Ruby Collection is an absolutely delicious mix of darker-coloured tulips, including "Recreado", a deep purple, and the tempting "Night Rider". 40 bulbs for £20, avonbulbs.co.uk

Clean up

Also tempting: the White Collection. Four different types of white tulips for a clean, restrained look from mid-April through to May. Very useful in a small front garden. 40 bulbs for £22, avonbulbs.co.uk

The ultimate bulb planter

From posh Dutch toolmaker Sneeboer, the ideal poky stick for getting those bulbs down to the right depth. £59.95, sarahraven.com

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine