Alice Spenser-Higgs
2 minute read
19 Apr 2014
10:00 am

Time to plant garden gold

Alice Spenser-Higgs

It is no coincidence that Easter is also an important date on the gardener's calendar. It marks the start of the planting season for spring bulbs, which are regarded as symbolic of hope and new life.

ENCHANTING. Fairy primulas and narcissus both like semi-shade. Picture: Supplied.

Even in Eastern tradition, practitioners of feng shui believe that narcissus and other bulbs bring good fortune and that the flowers represent hidden gold – not in the material sense but in the blossoming of hidden talents and ability. So if the thought of winter is starting to cast its long sha-

dow over you, start planting your own personal spring and with it your hopes and dreams for a new season.

“Not many gardeners have the space or the budget for massed plantings of bulbs so it is fortunate that bulbs mix beautifully with other winter flowers,’ says Kirchhoff’s Marlaen Straathof.

Annuals that she regards as good companions for bulbs include Bellis perennis, chrysanthemum (Coleostephus multicaule and C. paludosum) pansies, primulas, primroses, stocks, violas, and wall flowers (Cheiranthus). Alyssum and lobelia are year-round options as well.

“Many of these are available as packets of seed and the advantage is that if seeds are sown between the bulbs any roots that the bulbs have started to form will not be disturbed,” says Straathof.

With their longer flowering season, most annuals flower before and after the bulbs which extends the season. Their leafy, bushy growth acts as mulch and later hides the yellowing foliage as the bulbs go dormant. Annuals are also great budget stretchers, because bulbs are a higher-cost item than a few trays of seedlings. There is an art, however, to mixing bulbs and annuals. Bulbs look best when planted in groups, rather than being sprinkled like salt and pepper among the annuals. Low growing annuals like violas, pansies, alyssum or lobelia will show off the bulbs if used as a border, or when massed in-between groupings of bulbs.

“For instance fairy primulas soften the upright growth of the daffodils and the combination of lavender or white with yellow daffodils is lovely,” she says.

Other combinations that work are alyssum or primroses (Primula acaulis) with tulips; pansies with sun loving ranunculus and sparaxis; violas with narcissus; alyssum with freesias; and primroses with hyacinths.

Both bulbs and winter annuals like well composted soil that drains well, so good soil preparation is essential.

Before planting dig over the bed (a spade’s depth), and mix in compost. In clay soil, add some river sand to the bottom of the hole into which the bulb is to be placed.

Bulbs are generally planted first because the larger bulbs are planted deeper than bedding plants. Some gardeners overplant with the bedding plants or one can use sticks to indicate the position of the bulbs. .

Water well, especially as bulbs need plenty of water during their growing phase.

It is not necessary to feed bulbs because they contain all the nutrients they need, but bedding plants will grow and flower better with feeding once a month.