I'm knackered. Danny and I have just planted 2,000 bulbs. I try and add more bulbs every year, but this planting season has been a bit of a blow out. You can plant some "in the green", like Snowdrops, but I tend to do all our planting in autumn. We're feeling super virtuous; the new arrivals are going to look fab and be great for biodiversity around the garden.
For a start, bulbs are such a simple way to give pollinators forage in those crucial early days of Spring. As more and more of them fly earlier and earlier because of climate change, we have to increase the nectar and pollen available to them. There's not much flowering among our native flora in February and March; Prunus cerasifera, I suppose (if you count that as a native), and a few species like Coltsfoot ahead of the arrival of Blackthorn blossom.
Bulbs for the Meadow
Bulbs aren't just helpful early in the year. We have Autumn crocus in our meadow, just starting to flower now. They enjoy the short sward after a hay cut, and seem to naturalise freely. Some folk like Camassias in meadows - I'm not a huge fan of this combination although I do love them - but there are several native species which do look great in a meadow.
In particular we have native daffs, Wordsworth's subtle yet tough Narcissus pseudonarcissus lobularis. And, of course, Fritillaries. Fritallaria meleagris - the normal one as well as alba - is a stunning plant, and it loves our heavy wet clay. It's one of those native species which looks impossibly exotic. It has helped stretch the flowering window of a rather dull section of mostly grass, and it too spreads easily.
Native bulbs tend to be much smaller than some of the mammoth fancypants bulbs we've been dealing with this year, so easy to plant too.
Bulbs for Shade
There are some super native bulbs for woodland shade, of course, some of them tolerating really low light levels. I've been planting Ramsons in new hedge lines and under Medlar trees this year, as well as topping up our Bluebells (English, of course!) and Wood anemone. Wild garlic is incredibly useful; it likes very shady places and really covers the ground, without going completely nuts. If you have something which looks a bit like Wild garlic but is taking over, the chances are it's Three-cornered leek. I can't believe some places still sell this invasive allium. As for bluebells, be careful sourcing these too. If you're selling bluebell bulbs or seed you need a licence. Some customers prefer seed to bulbs, but it really does take ages to get going.
Bulbs for Bling
This year my well-informed nursery friend David has got us to try some bling. There are high stakes; he promises us "a wonderfully diaphanous display". I'm slightly dubious; tarty tulips and crocuses has been the extent of this kind of thing here in the past; the crocuses supplying an invaluable source of pollen in early Spring. David's blingy mixes have got all sorts in; an early summer flowering one has Alliums and camassia, for example, as well as late flowering daffs. It all sounds a bit weird but it could be great, particularly as we're filling in some boring grass around some apple trees. Some good bee plants in there too, and like all the bulbs we plant (and sell!), we've been super careful about where they're from and how they've been grown.
The blingy bulbs were chuffing HUGE compared to the native species we planted. It didn't seem fair to ask Danny to do most of the big ones - but on the other hand, he's keen and young. As for me, well, I earned a hot bath on Sunday night too.