Designing for all Seasons – Bulbs to Plant in Autumn


Seasonal colour, scents, flowers and foliage… From landscape gardening on large plots to the smallest courtyard garden with container planting, the right balance of interest throughout the year will make a garden truly special.

Think about the borders or containers in your garden design – after blooming in summer, will there be something of interest to look forward to later in the year? Bulbs are the secret weapon! Planting a few carefully chosen bulbs now will allow for a riot of colour in the depths of winter right through to springtime and even early summer.

Bulbs don’t look like much when they arrive – funny little brown blobs of root or tubers, corms or rhizomes. But pop them in the ground and let nature takes its course. There’s no need to dig up spent bulbs next summer unless you want to rework the ground in that particular place. If the bulbs are planted in grass or between perennials or shrubs, they can just be left for next year.

If you want to move them, let the foliage die down, then lift and clean the bulbs, trim the roots and lay the bulbs out for 24 hours. You can add a thin dusting of sulphur to help prevent any rotting. If any bulbs are mushy, discard them.

Favourite garden bulbs to plant in autumn include:


It’s hardly any wonder that these bright and beautiful spring flowers are the national flower of Wales. They know a good thing when they see it! These hardy, perennial bulbs will bring sun even to the dullest of spring days.


One of the defining spring bulbs – that unmistakable shape with its bright orange stamen. The crocus is a great addition to any spring garden.


Tulips are so varied that you can choose colours and flowering dates that suit you and your gardening. The diversity is astounding – you can get any hue, any variegation and flowers coming through from March to May.


As well as their distinctive shape and white/pink/purple/blue hues, Alliums can be great little nectar-providers for bees and other creatures in the garden. You can plant in rows for a more uniform look, or sweeping swathes across borders to create a cottage-garden feel.


When the crocus stops flowering, the humble but mighty anemones can take over the role of small colour provider in the garden. They’re really resilient to the late spring wind and wet weather.


Bridging the gap between spring and summer, Gladioli are architectural beauties – bright and bold and tall. They’re ideal for adding height before the summer foliage and flowers kick in. These monstrous flowers can pop out a bit early if the spring weather is mild and any further frosts may affect them. Mulch well to help them out.


Or indeed white bells (Hyacinthoides non scripta alba), bluebells are relatives of the hyacinth. They flower from late March onwards (weather permitting).


As with many bulbs, there are a variety of different versions of this majestic and somewhat exotic plant. The Iris x Hollandica flowers late spring and summer. Iris latifolia (non-native but hardier and later flowering). Iris reticulata flower earlier and are smaller and better for container gardening. If you want some winter blooms, try Iris unguicularis (stylosa) – they will flower as early as Christmas and can go through until Easter.


For many people, the fragrance of spring. You can grow these in the house to flower in January, too. Outside, bulbs will flower around March and April. The flowers are typically blue or white or pink, but there are peach variations too.


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