We are well into the autumn season in the garden and the colours of the leaves are looking vibrant as they turn golden, red, orange, yellow and brown. My favourite is the golden brown colour that our native oaks turn creating a splendid backdrop to the garden. We are already thinking ahead to spring and next year’s displays to make them even more interesting and colourful for our visitors; bulbs instantly come to mind. We have just purchased 33,900 bulbs which will keep us busy in the weeks ahead planting them in specific areas of the garden; in pots for displays in front of Rosemoor House and in the cottage garden; smaller bulbs in pots for the alpine display house; early flowering narcissus and freesias in the vegetable garden green house and last but not least tulips and daffodils for the spring bedding displays. The daffodil cultivars such as ‘February Gold’, ‘Hawera’ and ‘Jack Snipe’; will be planted in the shrubberies in areas such as the Winter Garden and Lake. They are ever dependable giving a good display year on year; we tend to choose the smaller cultivars that do not get so damaged in the wind and the rain.
Tulips have to be carefully used within the garden as they make excellent badger food so we use them in large terracotta pots in key locations around the garden and in large drifts in the bedding displays near the visitor’s centre, which seems to be a badger free zone. My favourite tulips are the dark, nearly black cultivars with sheen to the petals such as ‘Queen of the Night’ and ‘Black Jewel’.
Pots of tulips in the Cottage Garden
Other bulbs we naturalise in grass areas generally under trees or in meadow areas. This year we are planting Fritillaria meleagris (the snakes-head fritillary), Chionodoxa luciliae and Crocus Dutch hybrids such as ‘Pickwick’ with its fine stripes of white and mauve, and the daintier species Crocus tommasinianus 'Whitewell Purple’. The only problem with crocus is again that the badger is partial to this delicacy and so are the mice.
Naturalised Fritillaria meleagris
We will also be planting bulbs now that flower in early summer such as the alliums. They give a long season of display and mix well in borders with herbaceous perennials. ‘Purple Sensation’ is robust and reliable. We use it in the Hot Garden where the purple globe-like flowers give an early flush to our display. Also, Dutch Iris ‘Purple Sensation’ and ‘Sapphire Beauty’ again flower early summer and fit well into the Cottage Garden plantings.
Allium 'Purple Sensation' in the Hot Garden
The early flowering daffodils that we grow in pots in the fruit and veg garden glasshouse have a wonderful scent. ‘Paper White Grandiflora Ziva’ and ‘Grand Soleil D’or’. These are followed by freesias which produce masses of blooms. All are ideal for cutting to bring that first hint of spring into the house.
Narcissus ‘Grand Soleil D’or’ in the Vegetable Garden glasshouse
Bulbs used in the Alpine Display glasshouse are generally smaller growing bulbs and begin to flower from February. Iris reticulata is ideal for pot culture flowering at 4-6 inches in a variety of colours through blues and purples. Some of our firm favourites are ‘Joyce’, ‘Pixie’, ‘Purple Gem’ and ‘Alida’ and we use about 10-12 bulbs to a pot. We will also be planting Crocus, Fritillaria, Muscari, Scilla and smaller tulips (T.turkestanica, T.urumiensis, T.clusiana) and daffodils such as ‘Golden Bells’, ‘Canaliculatus’.
Colourful April display in the Alpine House So let’s get the bulb planters out and hope for some dry weather whilst we put our bulbs to bed ready for our spring display!