Hannah Stephenson chooses eye-catching bulbs to plant soon for a riot of colour next year.
Suddenly it’s bulb planting time, when gardeners start making space for some serious colour next spring and beyond.
Whether you’re going to online specialists, nurseries or your local garden centre, there should be a cornucopia of colourful choices and new collections, to fill every space from a huge plot to just a patio pot.
Check out 10 of the best…
1. Iris reticulata ‘Spot On’ (10 bulbs, £3.90, Farmer Gracy; farmergracy.co.uk)
These pint-sized velvety beauties bring a wow factor in pots and rockeries, where their delicate but dramatic violet-purple standards, and striped and spotted white falls can be appreciated. They look stunning in shallow metal containers surrounded by matching blue and white violas, flowering in early spring. Place them in sandy soil in full sun to give them the best chance of success, although they will take partial shade.
2. Delft Pot Collection (£20, Broadleigh Bulbs; broadleighbulbs.co.uk)
If you love a haze of blue and white and are looking to fill a pot or two, this new collection of blue hyacinths, white anemones and creamy tulips, along with other cool and striking bulbs, should fit the bill. Designed for a 12-14in pot, the long lasting collection includes Hyacinth ‘Blue Jacket’, Anemone blanda ‘White Splendour’, Muscari ‘armeniaicum’, Narcissus ‘Toto’ and Tulip ‘Exotic Emperor’.
3. Tulipa ‘Fly Away’ (8 bulbs, £6.99, Suttons; suttons.co.uk)
New to the Suttons bulb range, this sizzling tulip produces distinctive red and hot orange-yellow blooms on sturdy, upright stems that create a fiery colour statement in any garden. Best planted in full sun or semi-shade, these lily-flowered eye-catching gems grow to around 50cm (20in), flowering from April to May. They’re ideal for beds and borders or in pots on the patio. Cut some for indoors to make a beautiful spring flower arrangement.
4. Muscari ‘Grape Ice’ (8 bulbs, £4.99, Taylors Bulbs; taylors-bulbs.com)
Fancy a change from regular purple or white muscari? Then you could plump for this unusual two-tone variety, which features purple flowers with white caps. On the RHS Perfect for Pollinators list, they flower in March and April, growing to 15cm. Grow them en masse for best effect, preferably in a plethora of pots where their diminutive stature won’t be drowned out by anything else.
5. Narcissus ‘Cassata’ (10 bulbs, £7.99, Crocus, crocus.co.uk)
New from Crocus, these split corona daffodils provide a creamy backdrop of outer petals contrasting with deeper lemon inner petals and have received the RHS Award of Garden Merit. They grow to between 12-14cm, flowering from March to April. Plant the bulbs 10-15cm (4-6in) deep from late summer to early autumn.
6. Narcissus ‘Miss Muffet’ (5 bulbs, £3.10, Broadleigh Bulbs; broadleighbulbs.co.uk)
Flowering in February and March and growing to 28cm (11 in), this new dwarf trumpet daffodil from Broadleigh is pure yellow and is brilliant for naturalising, perfect in pots to perk up your patio and also great if you have space to fill at the front of the border.
7. Tulipa ‘Pretty Love’ (8 bulbs, £3.99, Taylors Bulbs; taylors-bulbs.com)
This beautiful lily-flowered tulip grows to 50cm (20in) and produces striking fluted shaped bright pink flowers which bloom in late April and early May. They look fabulous as stand-alone specimens in a pot or in a mixed planting scheme in a border. Their long-lasting blooms are also great for cutting.
8. Scilla peruviana ‘Sapphire Blue’ (2 plus 1 free bulb, £19.98, Crocus; crocus.co.uk)
Also known as Portuguese squill bulbs or hyacinths of Peru, these beauties produce masses of amethyst blue flowers above stout stems, thriving in full sun or partial shade. They are perfect for brightening beds, front borders and containers with their sprays of blue flowers.
9. Ranunculus ‘Picotee Cafe’ (10 bulbs, £5.90, Farmer Gracy; farmergracy.co.uk)
If you’re after more unusual bulbs with rich colours, try these stunning Persian buttercups whose frilly peony-shaped double blooms appear in warm shades of orange, gold, bronze, terracotta, coffee and chocolate. While they are ideally planted in autumn in mild areas, if you live in a cold spot you may need to provide some protection during hard frosts, covering pots in horticultural fleece or placing polytunnels over those planted in the ground.
Alternatively plant them in early spring for later blooms, which will come into their own in summer when other spring blooms have faded. The stems reach around 30cm, so will fit well in the front of the border or in containers. Originally bred for the cut flower trade, the blooms are bigger than more common ranunculus and do well in vases if you want to cut some for indoors.
10. Lilium ‘Orange Marmalade’ (2 bulbs £4.99, Taylors Bulbs; taylors-bulbs.com)
Nothing like the showy pink and cream oriental lilies which are familiar figures in borders and pots in late summer, this vibrant orange hybrid, a new addition to the Taylors range, grows to 80cm (32in), producing dainty star-shaped fragrant flowers in summer. What’s different is that the flowerheads are much smaller than some of the showier lilies, but can multiply to 30 or more stems per head.