Planting & propagation
It’s easy to grow your dream garden when you choose spring bulbs. These flower batteries are ready and waiting to emerge with scent and colour, and best of all, you don’t need much skill to grow them. Just plant them and nature will take care of the rest.
Growing in grass
One of the most popular ideas is to scatter bulbs, such as daffodils, liberally across the lawn so that they appear as if nature planted them. This is called naturalistic bulbs. Choose areas of the lawn that you don’t mind being left uncut until June, when the bulb foliage has died back—otherwise the bulbs become undernourished and will unlikely return in future years.
For effective results, use sand to mark out your design on the grass then lift back the turf and plant the bulbs, planting them close but not so they are touching. The general rule of thumb is to plant bulbs so that they are covered with soil that is two and a half times the height of the bulb, meaning that the hole is dug approximately three and half times the height of bulb!
Kent & Stowe’s Planting Spade will make light work of planting masses of bulbs especially as its beautifully smooth ash wood handle and the carbon steel blade is designed for cutting through compacted soil—such as that which is usually found beneath the grass. Its tapered narrow head is also useful for digging in confined spaces, such as when planting small drifts of bulbs in-between leafy perennials.
In herbaceous borders, be clever and intermingle spring-flowering bulbs, like daffodils, alliums, and tulips, informally with perennials that bloom in summer so that they will create a camouflage for the dying bulb foliage. For precision planting, arm yourself with the small Bulb Planter from Kent & Stowe. This specialist tool removes a 4cm diameter core of earth, which is the perfect fit for individually planting smaller bulbs like dainty daffodils, grape hyacinths, Snake's head fritillaries and crocus.
As well as planting dwarf varieties informally in grass or beneath shrubs in borders, consider running ribbons of grape hyacinths through your borders to resemble rivers. Get the children to join in with the fun by creating a blooming maze or interesting pattern in your lawn—this can be effective at creating interest for gardens with limited space. When positioned in intricate patterns, planting like this can give imaginative minds hours of fun.
Where space is limited, pot bulbs up in aquatic or bulb baskets so that they can be dug up and transplanted when it’s time to put in summer bedding. In order to fill baskets and your patio containers, without spilling valuable compost, Kent & Stowe’s rust-resistant stainless-steel Potting Scoop is invaluable. It’s also great for putting a well-placed scoop of grit in the bottom of the planting hole to prevent the bulbs from getting wet bottoms.
By now, your summer patio displays will probably be on their last legs and whist you can empty them and use fill the pots with bulbs for spring interest, there are also plenty of colourful leaves and flowers that can be used to re-fuel your containers right through to the end of the year. Don’t chuck summer bedding plants like Osteospemums and Pelargoniums in the compost bin though, as these valuable plants can overwinter in a frost-free place or can be propagated from cuttings to replicate or improve next year’s summer patio displays for free!
Autumn chrysanthemums will provide a splash of brilliant instant colour through to late autumn when the first proper frost kills them off. Choose compact, free-flowering varieties with both flowers and plenty of buds. Combine them with ornamental cabbages, colourful grasses, autumn crocus, hardy cyclamen and ice plants and, when struck by Jack Frost’s icy finger, you can replace the spent blooms with winter-flowering pansies.
Tricks and tools
Use secateurs when collecting plant material for propagation. There are two main types of secateurs, Bypass and anvil and Kent & Stowe offer a value twin pack, so you have the right tool for every type of job from deadheading, taking cuttings, pruning and cutting shoots down to the nearest bud. For cuttings, use the by-pass types, which have two cutting blades, as scissors do, that enable you to make a precise, clean cut. Wipe the blades clean with methylated spirits between cuts to prevent spreading infection.
Take cuttings from non-flowering stems that are firm at the base and soft at the tip. Make them to 10-15cm long, cutting them just below a leaf joint and remove the soft tip and lower leaves. You can root these cuttings on the windowsill indoors. Simply cover them with a clear plastic shower cap to help maintain the perfect atmosphere for rooting then permanently remove it when there are signs of growth. These protected cuttings will need hardening off before being planted outside when there is no further risk of frost and covering with horticultural fleece to protect them in cold weather.