30 March 2015

Make Easter bright with bulbs


Spring is definitely in the air and in partnership with the Allianz Garden Show Ireland 2015’s very own Gardening Guru, Geoffrey Stebbings from  brings you some top tips in how to brighten up your outside space for Easter and beyond..

After the long, grey winter we all need an injection of colour and nothing gets the job done better than bulbs. With their bright coloured flowers bursting through the cold earth their displays seem almost miraculous.

Of course, if you were well organized you would have planted them last autumn but it is sometimes difficult to believe that those small brown lumps will really produce such lovely flowers. Luckily most garden centres have pots of bulbs, just about to burst into bloom right now and they are an easy way to bring masses of colour and perfume to your garden. Don’t buy these to try to fill your borders – it is not the most economical or easy way to plant bulbs in your garden. But they are perfect for planting in pots and baskets around the house where you can really appreciate them. Pack them into pots so all the colour in concentrated in a few places and they will make much more impact than if you scatter them around the garden.

There are three main bulbs you will find in garden centres although they may also stock more unusual small bulbs too. But for maximum impact and beauty stick to these three.

You can get tulips that bloom from March to the end of May and with their amazing range of colours and shapes it is no wonder we all love them. Buy then with unopened buds so they last the longest time in your garden. Tulips love sun and the flowers will transform from egg-shaped buds to glorious open stars when the warm sun heats them. But for maximum colour put them in pots that are in part shade – the flowers will last longer.

Tete-a-tete is our favourite daffodil and pots of them can be bought everywhere, from supermarkets to nurseries. The short stems with bright yellow, small blooms are perfect for pots and window boxes. But there is more to daffodils than sunny, yellow flowers. Choose from sumptuous doubles, bright orange and white ‘narcissi’ and delicate pink and white varieties. Pack them into pots for a mass of colour and fragrance.

Hyacinths come in a wider range of colours than the typical pink, blue and white we are used to and you may be lucky enough to find pale apricot and primrose yellow as well as the more familiar shades. They are unbeatable for colour and for their sweet fragrance. In a cool spring the flowers should look good for three weeks.

What to plant with them
Your local garden centre will have lots of spring bedding plants to put with your bulbs but you can’t beat violas and pansies for their mass of flowers and range of colours. Violas have smaller flowers than pansies but they stand up to the weather better and many are sweetly scented. With minimal care they will grow and continue to bloom right into summer though we usually discard them in late May when it is time to fill containers with frost-tender summer plants. You will also find pots of delicate forget-me-nots, cheery daises and wallflowers and these will all give weeks of colour.

What to do next
Make sure you water your pots to prevent them drying out. When your bulbs have finished flowering, nip off the dead flowers and the seed pods to prevent seeds being formed. All these bulbs can be kept for growing next year but you should not cut off the leaves and you should allow them to die down naturally if you want them to flower well next year. You have two choices. You can let them die down in their pots but the leaves can look scruffy among the surrounding plants. When the leaves are yellowing, by late May when you are ready to replant your pots, lift them, clean off the soil and leaves and dead roots and store them in a dry shed till you plant them in autumn. Or you can pull up the clumps of bulbs as soon as they have finished flowering and plant them in the garden to continue growing and allow them to gradually die down to bloom again next year

Antrim Castle Gardens. will be bursting with colour at this year’s Allianz Garden Show Ireland, this three day festival of flowers, food and fun awaits visitors to these magnificent gardens from 8 – 10 May 2015. The packed programme includes appearances by international gurus from the world of gardening and food, including the return of special Festival visitor, Monty Don, on Saturday 9 May. As well as the thousands of plants on display, the new Food Pavilion with local food producers, local craft, tea tent and show gardens, will be fun filled activities appealing to all age groups. Live music, garden theatre, a dedicated kids zone, a garden cinema, and much more.

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