In spring, it is easy to find plants with yellow flowers to add colour to your garden (tulips, daffodils, celandines, cowslip,primroses) and the perfect foil to these are the stunning little blue bulbs. They will be appearing in garden centres and nurseries now and you can buy a few flowering in pots to get hooked on and then order masses of these good value bulbs and plant them in the autumn for spring next year. The photos below were all taken here and show how tough these little plants can be.
For drifts of early spring colour try Chionodoxa or ‘Glory of the Snow’. In the last couple of years, the name changes for this little genus has been baffling but, if you see blue Chionodoxa bulbs advertised, whichever you end up with will probably do well. Plant them on the edge of shrubs or in thin turf.
At Easton we use Chionodoxa in the meadows and over the years have bought various blue varieties all of which have given us great pleasure every spring and they are slowly multiplying. The only variety we have kept in the border is Chionodoxa ‘Pink Giant’ which is said to prefer these conditions.
Muscari or grape hyacinths also have lots to offer in containers, borders or in wild areas. We grow Muscari latifolium which has leaves similar to a small tulip. It looks lovely with the Snowflake (Leucojum) or in thin grass with other spring bulbs. Muscari neglectum has rushy leaves and is the grape hyacinth of cottage gardens and traditionally goes well with primroses. It can be aggressive but is a good plant for shady areas.
If you have pots of hyacinths (the big ones that come in baskets and smell amazing) left over from Christmas put the bulbs out in the garden amongst perennials and they will flower again outside albeit with smaller spikes. Hyacinths flower early so they make a good bridge between snowdrops and spring flowering perennials. We use them in amongst clumps of golden feverfew.
A beautiful blue for a spring garden is Anemone blanda. It has a depth of colour which gives it a royal richness. Anenome blanda is also available in white or pink and in woodland type conditions they will spread to form beautiful carpets of flowers.
You can see these flowers at Easton from April and into May.
In spite of the weather, the main snowdrop season is coming to an end. Now is a good time to make sure you have a fabulous display next year.
To give your snowdrops the best chance of increasing to form patches or drifts it helps if you understand their lifecycle.
In the Summer, a snowdrop bulb is dormant. That is, there is no sign of life, just a bulb. However, inside, the flower and all the information the plant needs for the next year is already formed. (If you want to see this for real, try slicing through a bulb) Throughout the Spring the leaves and roots have been drawing up nutrients to achieve this. This means that its main time for stocking up for next year comes just after it has flowered in February. Logically you don’t want to interfere with this process by breaking roots and damaging leaves. Should you leave the plants and let them die right back before lifting the bulbs and replanting? Sounds a better idea you say, but then summer comes and all is forgotten, you can’t find the bulbs and nothing happens. Anytime between now and June you can still see where your snowdrops are, using their green and yellowing leaves as a guide. So, if you are a perfectionist mark your bulb’s position now, and dig and split them from June onwards. If you are more like me, do it when you can and when you remember. Galanthus ‘Freds Giant’ shown has had this treatment and is increasing strongly every year.
Either way, make sure you replant immediately. Snowdrops are very forgiving as long as they don’t dry out.
Carefully lift a clump of snowdrops from the ground. You will need a long fork for this job as the bulbs will be much deeper than you think and if you try and do it with a trowel you will end up slicing off the foliage. You will find they are tightly packed together. Gently prise them apart keeping as much of the roots in tact as possible. Dig some deep small holes and put one bulb in per hole spaced about 8” apart. Put a few bulbs back in the hole that they came from. Each bulb will develop small offsets so a single plant has the potential to become a clump. If you want to start a new colony, position your snowdrops in areas under shrubs and trees that get some moisture but are shaded on very hot days.