I'm showered with bulbs with not a clue where to plant

(36 Posts)
GinAndOnIt Wed 21-Sep-16 12:38:13

I may have sent off for a few too many of the free bulb offers, and now have 6 types of alliums, plus snowdrops, hyacinth, ixia, crocus, muscari, anemone de caen, daffs and tulips.

I've posted other threads with garden plans, so sorry to repeat myself if you've read the other ones. And I can post some pictures if needs be! But does anyone have any lovely ideas of where I can plant?

I have found a spot for the Allium Purple Sensation and Mount Everest, and another spot for some Allium Moly (but I have a lot more of those to spread around). I also thought I'd plant the tulips and daffs around the base of a few trees I have going up the front path. There are a few snowdrops already planted near front door, so I think I will just add the other snowdrops to those.

Now, I have a section of bedding towards the bottom of the front garden where I have planted my rose plants, and they're doing quite well considering I'd left them sat in their pots for far too long. There are four of them, and I've planted them in four separate small beds of their own, with a space in the middle. This middle bit is where I wanted to plant other things, but I'm getting a bit overwhelmed with googling heights of alliums and what to plant with what, so I need some help.

I'd like it to be the kind of bed that has tall in the middle, with shorter towards the edge, but surrounding the tall all around IYSWIM? Almost like a circle bed rather than one that goes from back to front in height. If this is a terrible idea, tell me now!

Any other ideas for the plants would be nice to hear too. I can list the Allium types if you'd like!

GinAndOnIt Wed 21-Sep-16 12:39:57

Here is a picture of some of the garden plan. The four striped circles are the roses, and the middle striped shape is where I was hoping to plant bulbs.

There is no such thing as too many bulbs. It is like too many books, or too much money. smile

My best bit of advice is not to worry. If you get it wrong, you can just move them. Every single autumn I do a major shifting round of my borders because something really isn't in the right place. Things grow and get bigger than you anticipate - sometimes other things die unfortunately - or the light or conditions change due to something like a tree around your garden getting taller. So don't worry too much about getting it perfect! One of the most difficult things about planting spring bulbs is that we have to do it at a time when the garden is in full swing, and when they are out, so much that is full right now, will be empty because of the natural cycle of herbaceous perennials retreating below the ground!

First thing to say - not all of those things come out at once, so you might want to think about pairing them. Snowdrops will be long gone by the time tulips are out. So if you want sustained interest until herbaceous perennials start poking through, a combination is probably in order (I was out late last night planting snowdrops, early daffs, late daffs and small alliums in the same patch of ground).

Second thing - don't put tulips in deep shade, they mostly like sun! So under trees may not be ideal, esp for later varieties. Daffs tend to prefer sun (or at least only partial shade) as well - the reason you can often get away with these under trees, however, is that the early/mid season ones try to get flowering out of the way before the leaves come out! Also, some of them are just tough - they manage to flower in my north-facing and heavily shaded garden even though conditions are hardly ideal.

Third - don't estimate how big a clump you need for it to have impact. Also, the planting distances for some bulbs are often ideal for optimum growing conditions in the longer term, not optimum display in the first year! With things like crocuses, they can look a bit lonely for the first 2 years when strictly spaced at the 'correct' intervals'. Soon, however, the bulbs start to multiply.

Alliums are great with roses. Not only do they look good, but they repel some common rose pests. They can also look brilliant if you have the earlier varieties of rose in sympathetic colours to purple. Otherwise, they provide some interest while your rose revs up for action.

The only thing I would say about your circle bed idea is that these work brilliantly when you can see them from all sides. If you are looking predominantly from one side, or you have a very fixed point of view, the stuff behind the tall things in the middle can get a bit lost. This is absolutely not a 'don't do it' but more of a 'think about your angles of viewing' bit of advice.

And yeah, do list your allium types. Those collections usually include caeruleum (tight blue spheres, from mid June, 50cm), moly (May-June, 15-20cm, bright yellow and more messy flowers), Everest (May-June, white, tall 90cm, big elegant spheres) purple sensation (purple, 40cm, neat spheres, May-June), christophii (late June-July, lilac, 40cm, large loose spheres) sphaerocephalon (July-August oval/drumstick, 70-80cm, dark purple). Purple sensation, christophii, spaerocephalon flower in virtual sequence from each other and are similarish in height in a border - good for the mid-section. Moly, being much smaller, often looks a bit better at the front but is quite a big contrast with the purple so maybe keep it away? Roseum is a lovely one if you have some of that - I think it looks good at the front when turning corners (some plants just do that, hakkonachloea is another one).

GinAndOnIt Wed 21-Sep-16 15:11:36

shove that is all excellent advice.

Regarding the circle bed, (or circle-ish) - it will be seen from three of the four sides by us walking up and down the path, and the neighbour will see the fourth side (their garden is lovely so it seems nice to have something on our side that is nice for them to see too!)

The alliums are:

Purple sensation
Mount Everest
Moly
Ostrowskanium
Caeruleum
Sphaerocephalon

I wanted to avoid using the purple sensation and Everest ones in the circle bed as I want them in the back garden along the shed, where I will see them most often! But I have the other varieties and also the spring bulbs up for grabs for the bed.

Great info about tulips, will avoid putting next to trees. I've had a look at the trees and actually a lot of them are probably a bit too mature for the daffodils too, but there are a few smaller ones nearer the path which could look nice.

GinAndOnIt Wed 21-Sep-16 15:52:17

Here are the roses, with the space in the middle for a bed. Not the clearest of photos but gives an idea of space and positioning.

Oooh, how lovely your garden is! Love that curvy path. Your road looks gorgeous too.

I think I would widen those circles substantially if it were mine. Two reasons - getting enough manure to the roots of the roses to ensure they are well fed and the grass isn't competing, and giving you more space for bulbs!

GinAndOnIt Wed 21-Sep-16 16:26:47

So do you think I should make each one a larger bed, with the rose in the middle? So four beds in total?

I was thinking of a separate island bed not connected to the roses, in the middle with the four spots sort of framing it.. but I'm open to better ideas!

I love the curvy path. It's a very long rectangle garden but the path makes you go through different parts and stops it looking so clinical I think smile

I'm not a great rose grower, but until one comes along, here's my best shot.

Roses can be like the divas of the plant world - they are demanding and need a bit of cossetting to be at their best. If you think about them full grown, they have quite a big rootball. Ideally, you want those roots to be able to access any water or food you dump down for them (for flowers, roses are hungry). Grass will compete for water and nutrients with the rose roots underneath. So for the best care of the roses, you want them not to have to fight too hard to survive, which means clearing a bit more grass. However, you don't want completely bare soil because that encourages fungal diseases! So the thinking seems to be that underplanting with a ground cover that is a bit less competitive than grass is ideal. So something like salvias and alliums might be a good choice:

www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/how-to-grow/at-last-roses-meet-their-perfect-match/

www.crocus.co.uk/features/_/garden-care-tips/monthly-musings/november-2014----roses/articleid.1363/

There are loads of ways to achieve this in design terms. You could widen all four circles to underplant, or you could have one big bed! Or you could have a central area with four things coming off it, a bit like a sort of flattened clover leaf shape. Totally up to you - any of those would be lovely!

(Do wait til someone from the flower thread comes along and either confirms or denies this! Like I said, I'm no rose expert).

GinAndOnIt Wed 21-Sep-16 16:43:42

Oh shove I don't suppose you want to draw a diagram of those beds you described? grin

There is a big pine tree behind the camera, so I think one big bed would be a bit too much going on. Plus it's at the end of the garden which can't be seen from the house, so although I want it to look lovely for walking up the path, I'm not sure I could find the motivation to dig an entire bed and then not gaze at my hard work from the kitchen grin

OK, 2 min job off the top of my head!!

GinAndOnIt Wed 21-Sep-16 17:01:02

Ah!!!! You're the best! I love that. I think it gives the roses a bit more purpose as well. What are the little bushes with the alliums and roses? I can't quite make out the word.

Salvias! In that article above it says to plant them as rose companions to keep them healthy.

I don't have dimensions or anything for your garden, so mess around with it til it looks right visually for your space! I get out a horrible, bright yellow garden hose and mark out beds, then stare at it for a couple of days, including gazing at it from upstairs windows (sometimes I leave DH downstairs and then give him directions on the mobile - "NO DH! I SAID MOVE IT LEFT!"). Apparently you can also use sand and some spray on painty stuff that comes off.

GinAndOnIt Wed 21-Sep-16 17:14:17

Ah yes, I just spotted that in the telegraph article.

We are currently getting rid of a lot of shrubbery further up the garden, so the thought of planting more fills me with a bit of dread. But I do think it's going to look quite empty soon. Also, the shrubs at the bottom of the picture are going soon too. There is a ginormous mature tree in the middle which I would like to be more of a feature than something hidden, do actually the garden will probably be crying out for some mid height greenery.

I might take a few more pictures this evening to upload.

For the sides, maybe mid-height things, rather than huge, vigorous things that require hacking back, might work. They aren't much effort (an annual trim) for a lot of reward. If you use evergreens, you will have something more to look at in winter, when the rest of your garden might otherwise be a bit bare. If conditons suit, sarcococca confusa is lovely in the winter by a path - knock-out perfume. Viburnum davidii can be quite low growing and has a lovely big leathery leaf. A variegated hebe and holly might also look lovely! Choisya might also give you some winter interest.

You might want to add something to each of the circles for the midwinter too. One of the hellebores that doesn't mind a bit of sun, maybe? (H. x hybridus, H. x sterni?)

GinAndOnIt Thu 22-Sep-16 09:02:55

Right, I've done a quick sketch over breakfast this morning. Not quite to scale but just for an idea. This is just using bulbs I already have, and cuttings I can easily grow!

I then thought I would naturalise some of the spring bulbs in the grass sporadically, to make it look a bit less precise. DP loves spring flowers growing through grass so I'll let him have that wink

I thought I could then see how all this grows, and think about what height (with shrubs) might look good after that. As I said, the shrubbery at the top of the garden is in the masses at the moment so it's hard to visualise.

The only thing I'm a bit stuck for finding a place, is the Ixia. I have 15 bulbs but not sure where to put them. Maybe I should just put them in the back garden beds for now.

That is going to be an absolutely lovely spectacle from about March to June! Don't forget the stuff for summer/winter that will succeed it!

I love the idea of naturalising bulbs in the grass. I have done this in my own lawn - I planted them in a very defined shape of a kind of crescent and it gives this lovely whoosh of purple. You could do a similar thing with a snaking river of crocuses between the beds!

The only thing I would say is that you need to think about mowing. Your lawn is clearly in fine fettle and you don't want to wreck it. Bear in mind that you need to leave the lawn around them unmown while they die back, or they will not be able to gather enough energy to come back and back. So if you use later bulbs, this means that you'll have some very unkempt areas of lawn that you can't mow into May/June - which means when you do your first mow, the lawn will be brown. Not a good look. So it works best with early things like crocuses - you can let the lawn grow a bit around them as they die back, but still get in your first mow before it starts to get out of control.

Alternating long and short grass can be a spectacular effect at any time of year- at Little Sparta, Iain Hamilton Findlay has waves of it, and the effect is sculptural (I'd post a picture, but they are very strict about people not sharing images of the garden). Here is another example, by Graham Moore. I'm thinking you could have this but with added crocuses as a kind of living sculpture in the early months of the year.

This is the only pic I can find of my 'crosus whoosh' - not all the crocuses are out, unfortunately - it looks better when they are all in flower!

GinAndOnIt Thu 22-Sep-16 09:53:23

Yes the mowing is more tricky. DP does that and I have been told what would and wouldn't be a nightmare for him mowing - I think we've agreed that we will keep the naturalising bulbs to either near edges of borders or in small areas around the edges of the garden so he doesn't have to try and remember where he can't mow.

I love the ideas of grass growing in different heights to form shapes, and I think if I had a wider garden, I would love meadow grass with a path mown through. The path is quite a feature in this garden though (further up it is patterned and continues to curve through) and I think 'paths' in the grass would look a bit OTT alongside it.

I'm not sure what to add to the beds for summer/winter. Maybe sedum? The roses and lady's mantle will stop it looking totally bare, but you're right it does need something else. How would I go about planting that - I can't work out how to add something without leaving a path when the alliums die back.

GinAndOnIt Thu 22-Sep-16 11:14:25

I've just had a thought. Maybe a wildflower mini meadow might be nice around the veg patch further up. I was going to surround it with borders, and just mow a path through the middle of the veg, but I wonder if it would look lovely and homely surrounded by wild flower instead. It would definitely attract lots of insects too.

Going to have a bit of a Google into how to go about growing one.

GinAndOnIt Thu 22-Sep-16 11:17:41

The neighbour might hate us though. Their garden is very manicured grin

Wild flowers do look lovely with veg. The downside is keeping the wild flowers (another name for weeds, i.e. plants that can generally out-compete most things you cultivate!) out of the beds that have your veggies in them, both because they spread underground and because part of growing a meadow is allowing it to set seed - which will also happen on your lovely beds!

There is a wildflower meadow next to my allotment! I don't mind rooting up the odd extra weed for the sake of the insects and wildlife. But I wouldn't necessarily have it any closer...

Where it might work is if you have a meadow under dwarf or very dwarf fruit trees (or larger if you have space) because you have a pretty ideal ecosystem set up then and you're not trying to keep clear earth next to wildness. Would that be possible.

Your garden sounds more and more amazing btw!

GinAndOnIt Thu 22-Sep-16 13:49:29

Aaaah I hadn't even thought of that. That's a good point. Maybe it wouldn't work then - the opposite side of the path to the roses is just trees, but I wonder if it's too narrow for meadow there, and whether it would look a bit lopsided.

I've just taken some photos which I'll upload in the next few posts, hold on. You will need some imagination wink

GinAndOnIt Thu 22-Sep-16 13:51:35

So this is the view from the driveway, and then from the top of the steps. I thought just to the left of the steps where it's elevated might look nice with a little cluster of naturalised spring bulbs.

GinAndOnIt Thu 22-Sep-16 13:55:44

Then this is me stood in the middle looking down and up. So at the moment we are in the middle of clearing the masses of weeds and shrubbery right at the bottom of the garden, and also the ones to the left and right side of the path in the middle of the garden. Where the big bushes are in the middle is where the veg patch will eventually be.

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