Now's the time to get bulbs going for spring
I know that massed displays of spring-flowering bulbs are really not a feature of subtropical gardens. But that doesn't mean we can't share the joy of planting at least a few of these unremarkable little things and enjoying the magic that is the first shoot emerging, followed by the plump bud and - at last - the flower.
In my experience, jonquils, daffodils and freesias do really well here. You can leave them in the ground and they will multiply and flower again year after year. Freesias will naturalise beautifully in garden beds, lawn areas and underneath deciduous trees.
Another good performer that will naturalise for you is the relatively unknown ixia, a native of South Africa. These produce tall, slender stems with many flowers in different shades of cream, yellow, pink and scarlet. They take little water and are well suited to coastal gardens, although they will also do well in cooler areas.
I find tulips, ranunculus and anemones will flower in the first spring, but may not reappear in following years. But they are so pretty, so easy to grow and so inexpensive that it's worth planting them every year if you like them.
You should find bulbs in garden centres, and this is the time to plant them. They will flower in late winter/early spring, but by the time you see the flowers in gardens, it is too late in the season to plant. So do it now, or at least before the end of May.
Select an open, sunny location with well-drained soil and enrich it with some well-rotted animal manure or compost. As a general rule, bulbs should be planted at a depth that is twice the height of the bulbs, and the same distance apart. They look best when planted in informal drifts or clumps rather than in straight lines. Areas beneath deciduous trees are especially suitable.
Most bulbs need to be planted with the point facing upwards, although anemone and ranunculus should be planted with their little claws pointing down. The depth is important, too, usually two or three times the height of the bulb. Check the information on the pack to make sure you get the correct orientation and depth.
When the flowers finish, feed the bulbs with a complete plant food and allow the leaves to die down naturally. This will enable the bulbs to replenish themselves and produce flowers next year.
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