The Veg Plot

Best bulbs for a brighter border

flower border bulbs

This year I’ve neglected my flower borders and they’ve become a mess. A few large perennials expanded beyond all expectations, smothering the other plants to death, apart from the free-to-roam weeds. Last weekend I attempted to tidy them up. I ended up ripping out almost everything.

Which means I drastically need to fill the gaps. There’s no point worrying about the forthcoming winter display – bare earth will be this season’s theme – but now is the perfect time to shove in some bulbs so at least I’ve got a head start for next year. The trouble is, beyond daffs, tulips and crocus*, I don’t know much about what bulbs would be best and haven’t found the time to do proper research, so I lazily asked an expert instead.

Unwins are a popular and reliable supplier of floral life and their website has a section called ‘unusual bulbs‘. This sounds more promising than a load of croci, so I pinged my requirements to bulb expert Patrick and here’s what he recommended…

Five of the best bulbs for flower borders

Camissia Corrulia bulb

Great for filling space
The problem:
I have large, empty patches which would benefit from a reliable space filler. Good height, good spread, decent flowering season please.
Patrick’s choice: Camassia caerula
Tall spires packed with purple star-shaped flowers, these bulbs instantly create swathes of colour with a wild flower meadow effect.

Erythronium ‘Kondo’

Great for shade
The problem: Half of my border is in near permanent shade. Something that adds colour despite a lack of sun would be extremely handy.
Patrick’s choice: Erythronium ‘Kondo’
Dazzling yellow clumps of flowers that will provide a golden glow throughout May.

Fritllaria meleagris

Great for damp soils
The problem: My garden is on a big slope with poor drainage. One corner is almost constantly wet and virtually everything that has been tried in that spot soon gives up.
Patrick’s choice: Fritillaria meleagris
Also known as Snake’s Head Fritillaria, these delicately textural cream, purple and pink flowers should survive the worse of the spring rain.

Eremurus ‘Cleopatra’

Great for tall spires
The problem: Now that I’ve ripped out my big guns I could do with a tall replacement for the late spring showtime.
Patrick’s choice: Eremurus ‘Cleopatra’
These ‘foxtail lilys’ have tall spikes with a spectacular display of orange blooms.

Allium sphaerocephalon

Great for long-flowering period
The problem: I could do with the ultimate in lazy gardening: something spectacular that will bloom for ages.
Patrick’s choice: Allium sphaerocephalon
I’ve already got a few tall alliums, so this is a welcome recommendation. These work well planted in clumps and have the bonus of being popular with the bees. Perfect choice!

*Don’t like ’em. They flower and collapse in the same day. Evolution needs to provide them with stronger stems.

Thanks to Patrick at Unwins for kindly sending me the bulbs to try out. We’re updating him with progress…

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