The art of naturalising bulbs
Although it’s too late to plant spring bulbs, this is a great time to admire them, take photos and plan for next spring – and autumn planting. As well as growing spring bulbs in pots and borders, planting them in naturalistic drifts through lawns and under shrubs and trees is an increasingly popular way of creating a relaxed, natural feel in the garden. With the right conditions, bulbs will self-seed and carpet the ground for spring impact.
After a pretty show of snowdrops and aconites come the crocuses such as delicate Crocus tommasinianus, C. ‘Vanguard’ and C. ‘Pickwick’. They work well in large drifts in sunny lawns with good drainage. Plant them in autumn – ideally slicing the turf and rolling it back before planting the bulbs in large random drifts into exposed soil with a little compost.
From March to April, the dainty white or blue/violet daisy flowers of Anemone blanda are wonderful for naturalising in a lawn or under deciduous trees and shrubs, where they’ll gradually spread. Often found in woods, they tolerate part-shade as well as full-sun. Tiny blue Scilla siberica or S. bifolia will also carpet bare soil in part-shade with a gorgeous sprinkling of bright blue.
There’s nothing that symbolises spring more than daffodils and species varieties in particular suit being naturalised in the lawn where the long grass can hide the dying flower heads. Wild daffodils such as Narcissus pallidiflorus, N. pseudonarcissus and N. poeticus are stunning in grass and under trees, while ‘N. ‘Thalia’ and N. ‘Actaea’ flower a little later. Scatter them randomly and plant them with a bulb planter, replacing the turf afterwards. You’ll need to leave the foliage for around six weeks to die back and hold off on mowing until after the flowers have dispersed their seed.
In moisture-retentive soil, snake’s head fritillary Fritillaria meleagris and the white-flowering variety, are a lovely choice. Camassias with starry flower spires look great in meadows and orchards and leucojum varieties are also beautiful naturalised in grass and under trees.
In sunny areas with free draining soil such as gravel gardens as well as lawns, try species tulips which are smaller and more delicate than modern tulips. Try Tulipa humilis, T. sprengeri and red-orange T. hageri which naturalise well in sunny lawns with free-draining soil.