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spring bulbs

I have built a 3'x3'x2.5' high wooden structure in which I want to plant bulbs which will flower from (say) Feb onwards. Imagining base layer tulips, mid layer daffs and top layer snowdrops. I'm hoping not to have to remove the bulbs when finished and that they will flower year on year. I understand that I should go for varieties which will 'naturalise'. Tulips appear to be problematical and that only 'botanical' varieties will 'come back'. Advice pl. on viability of the idea and varieties of bulbs most likely to satisfy my wishes.


  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 50,268
    It can be difficult because tulips like different conditions [generally] from snowdrops for example. Even the botanical ones need a sunny, well drained site, whereas snowdrops prefer moisture and some shade, although they can take some sun if the soil's moist :)

    You could maybe try a range of daffs/narcissus by using  early varieties, which are smaller, followed by some later, taller ones. There are huge numbers of varieties though, so it would be difficult to recommend any specifically, but you would be able to get ones which don't all look the same to give you a bit of a change. They also flower at different times depending on where you are, so you may need to experiment a bit.
    The snowdrops would be fine with most daffs though, as daffs are generally happy enough in damper conditions, and mostly don't mind a bit of shade.  :)

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • The other thing I would add is that snowdrops can be difficult to establish from dried bulbs - usually sold in Feb `in the green`.

    Other options if you want colour are crocuses - the species ones come before the larger Dutch ones.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 50,268
    Yes - that's definitely the best way for snowdrops @Pianoplayer :)
    Crocus are excellent with daffs. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • seacrowsseacrows Posts: 221
    You want to start flowering in Feb., but how long to go on for?
    There's chionodoxa (scilla) for the earliest, then snowdrops, crocus, daff/narcissus, allium, camassia, ixia, gladiola, then into the autumn crocus and cyclamen. A lot of early bulbs tend to be woodland, so some shade is needed.
    Also, if you only plant spring bulbs you will have six weeks or so in summer when all you have is dieing back foliage. I underplanted a prostrate rosemary with crocus, and it worked until the rosemary bushed up. I'd try a creeping thyme if I replanted.
  • Thank you all for taking the time to respond. All useful info. I had imagined planting summer bedding after tulips have done their stuff, to give more continuous colour. I'm primarily a vegetable man so 'dipping my toe in the water' to some extent. I'll give it a go. 
  • JessicaSJessicaS Posts: 722
    If it helps, latest flowering narcissus I have had is 'new baby' so you could plant those with tete a tete as those will finish earlier, and get a good continuous display.
  • FireFire Posts: 17,116
    I recommend iris reticulata.  Scilla are a good lovely. The thing with daffs, allium and tulips if you get a great deal of foliage that gets scraggy and can hide smaller plants like cyclamen. You might like to try a lasagna of early iris retic (minial greenery) and scilla and species tulips for later emergence. Allium and tulips thrive and are more likely return in future years in lighter sandy soils and risk rotting in the heavy soils that snowdrops can handle.  I agree that snowdrops are more likely to take if planted "in the green".

    You can hide some of the scraggy greenery with taller plants like wallflowers. An allium/ tulip/ wallflower mix can work well for April/May/June flowering. There are good summer flowering allium too.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 50,268
    The small Iris reticulatas diminish over a few years, so maybe not worth having if @georgewdavidson wants a bed that needs little attention.  :)
    Having crocus for this spring is possibly the best solution, and chionodoxa, as suggested,  are also lovely, and snowdrops can then be bought in the green [usually March] for the following years. They'll work with the crocus etc anyway. 
    It's worth taking a look at some of the bulb suppliers to get a few ideas for timing. I personally wouldn't use Camassias as they need to be in soil that doesn't dry out, so that could be a problem, or Gladioli, as you may not be able to leave them in place, so you'd need to dig holes to put them in later. Many aren't hardy. 
    Too many different bulbs will definitely result in a lot of foliage, so it's probably better to have something simple for the summer season - easy perennials or annuals. Perennials can be planted with the bulbs, and many annuals can be sown direct [Nigella, Nasturtiums etc]  to avoid disturbing bulbs, or put in around edges as small plants. Raised beds need topping up each year anyway, so it's possible to insert small plants at the same time - after the smaller bulbs die back. Again, it's a question of what suits the site and aspect.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
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