With Hamish Chapman
Bulbs are a beautiful addition to a garden, bringing on some extra colour when winter is over & we are all starting to get outside a bit more once again. There are a multitude of bulbs available and many that will put on a great display in Sydney’s climate, ranging from the very vibrant and showy to the softer & more understated in an array of colours and shapes.
Autumn is the perfect time to plant bulbs. There is still enough warmth in the air and soil to give them some time to settle in and prepare themselves for a floriferous display in spring. Generally they will prefer a spot with full to dappled sunlight. Do some research as to the recommended spacing between your bulbs – while some varieties grow quite large and need some space, others benefit from being somewhat crowded.
Bulbs can be used in mass plantings to create a picturesque, meadow-like effect, planted in rows to create an inviting spring border along a path or drive, or dotted throughout the garden to add interest to different pockets within your space. Consider what effect you are going for and select an appropriate planting scheme. Think about colour combinations, or whether you want to have a single-colour theme, taking into consideration other flowering plants and foliage colours you have in your space already. Whites and blues can be used to lighten up more classical gardens; oranges, yellows and brighter reds can be used to bring some brightness to more tropical planting designs, while deep reds, dark blues and browns can be used to add a sense of romance or intrigue (see the Style section of our blog for the Chocolate Cosmos).
As a rule bulbs are very easy to grow, requiring next to no attention while dormant and only a bit of watering as they shoot and flower. Some bulbs will flower at the end of winter, many through spring, and others into summer and autumn. Consider the flowering time of your bulbs to create either a burst of colours altogether, or a staggered variety of flowers throughout the year. Do consider that many have leaves that will gradually yellow and die back after flowering – while they are often not particularly attractive at this stage, it is important not to cut them back too soon as during this process the plant’s energy is being transferred back into the bulb so that it can lay dormant and then flower vigorously again the following year. Many bulbs are happy in pots, so can be brought out while in flower and stored away while dormant.
Here are a few different bulb varieties that we love, that can each be used in different situations and to different effect:
Babiana Stricta is a low-growing bulb with attractive light-green foliage that produces masses of small, deep blue flowers in spring. It is perfect as a border or in under-planting as long as it still receives a fair amount of light. They thrive in Sydney in full to dappled sunlight.
Dahlias do very well in Sydney’s warm climate, and given a sunny spot in the garden will produce large, flamboyant flower heads in summer and into autumn. They come in a range of colours, with the peachy colour of the Delbard Gange cultivar being a favourite. Use a dark red or white variety if you are going for a more romantic mood. Growing quite tall, will pop their heads out when planted around lower shrubs, but may need some staking to support their heavy flowers.
Lilium ‘Black Charm’ is a dramatic lily cultivar with striking black flowers. They need a bit of space as they can grow over a metre tall. In Sydney, they will appreciate a bit of protection from the hot afternoon sun.
Allium gigantium is an impressive ornamental onion that produces cricket ball-sized heads of flowers in the late spring. In a range of colours from white to soft pink to vibrant purple and blue, they are stunning paired with soft plantings of mixed grasses and herbaceous plants.
The Pineapple Lily Eucomis ‘Oakhurst’ is a stunning perennial that forms strappy leaves that are green to burgundy in colour and in summer produces tall spikes with multitudes of small white to pink flowers. It has quite a tropical feel but also works well as a feature in more classical gardens, as well as in pots.
There are so many more bulb options out there – do some research, find some inspiration, get planting and look forward to great rewards in Spring and Summer.