All of the popular spring bulbs, especially the low-growing species and varieties, flower in exposed sites. If you are growing groups of them in a windy position, stake them well when they are only a few centimetres high to prevent the leaves and flower stems from being broken in strong winds.
In the sun but sheltered
Most bulbs like to be planted in well-drained soil, exposed to the sun, but sheltered from cold, drying winds. Certain bulbs, such as snowdrops, Eranthis hyemalis, Cyclamen coum, Anemone nemorosa and erythronium, also grow well in semishade, close to deciduous shrubs or trees.
Settle in the bulbs: If possible, plant bulbs as soon as you buy them, or store them in a cool, dry place. The still-warm soil at the beginning of autumn is perfect for planting, but by late autumn it is very cold and often waterlogged.
- From the end of August, you can plant out anemones, ranunculus, freesias, scilla and ornamental allium. You can also put in some of your narcissus so that they will flower early at the beginning of spring.
- Make sure you plant out any members of the Fritillaria family before the end of September, as the bulbs will lose their freshness after that. Any that are still unplanted by October will probably be dried out. If you have inadvertently left it this late, try rehydrating the bulbs by soaking them in water for 24 hours before planting them.
- Wait until mid-October to plant out tulips. If you plant any earlier and the autumn is mild, they could start to show premature shoots, which would be very sensitive to frost.
Fritillaria and lilies like deep planting: Unlike most bulbs, Fritillaria imperalis and lilies (except Lilium candidum, which requires shallow planting), should be planted a good 20cm deep.
When planting, tilt fritillaria bulbs so that they are not upright. If water soaks directly into the central growing point, the bulb will rot. You can identify the growing point of the bulb as it shows traces of the previous year's stem.
Cyclamen prefer the surface: Plant cyclamen close to the surface of the soil. If they are buried too deep, they will not grow well and will not flower. Mulch them with leaf-mould.
Which way is up? Bulbs should be planted with their tips uppermost. If you are unsure which end is which – and anemones can be particularly confusing in this respect – it is best to lay them on their sides at the bottom of the hole.
Ensure that bulbs reach their maximum potential by planting them in the most suitable place.
Shady rockeries: Scilla sibirica, Chionodoxa lucillae, and crocus chrysanthus
Under shrubs and trees: Anemone blanda, A. nemerosa and winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)
Cool, damp places: Fritillaria meleagris and English bluebell(Hyacinthoides non-scripta)
Unheated greenhouses: Ipheion uniflorum, Hyacinthus orientalis, and Narcissus 'Paper white'
Colourful spring beds: Tulipa Brilliant Star, T. tarda or the water lily tulip (T.kaufmaniana)
Lawns: Narcissus 'Carlton' N. 'February Gold' or N. ' February Silver'