Heartwood Garden Design

Top 10 spring bulbs to plant right now
Top 10 spring bulbs to plant right now

September has arrived and we’re well into the planting season for spring bulbs. In Hertfordshire we can expect rain levels to increase, which will loosen up the soil for planting and for the weather and soil to stay relatively warm until the end of October. So plenty of time to get some beautiful spring bulbs in.

Why are bulbs important?

Most spring bulbs flower from the end of January right through to May. They fill a gap in the garden and provide a much needed shot of colour at a time of year which can be a bit dull, before the warmer spring weather arrives. There’s a huge range of colour diversity so if vivid reds, oranges and purples are your thing there’s lots of choice. Equally if you prefer gentler pastel shades and a generally more delicate look, there’s plenty of choice.

Different bulbs flower at different times.

Different flowering times mean that you can create a sequence of colour in your garden, so there’s always something to look forward too. This is probably the most important aspect of bulbs, and it’s useful to know what bulbs flower when as well as the best colours and combinations that you can buy. Our top ten are our preferred bulbs and listed by time of year, it’s a good place to start if you have no bulbs in your garden right now, but it’s worth bearing in mind that there are a huge range of bulbs available from suppliers like Peter Nyssen and Bloms Bulbs.

What bulbs need and how to plant

All bulbs need great drainage to thrive. In Hertfordshire, many gardens have a clay based soil which can be more difficult for bulbs in wetter conditions. If you can, plant each bulb with a thin layer of horticultural grit to improve drainage. Bulbs need to be planted to 3 x the depth of the bulb, the larger the bulb the deeper they need to be planted. Little Anemone blanda bulbs (corms) benefit from pre-soaking before planting.

  1. Eranthis hyemalis (Winter Aconite – February) – low beautiful and buttercup yellow. These woodland bulbs thrive in a damp, shady location where they can planted on masse.
2. Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ (February) – miniature vivid blue irises, to brighten up the darkest February day. Because they’re quite tiny they’re very good in a large dish shaped plant pot covered with a layer of gravel so they can be enjoyed from the house in a sunny spot.
  1. Narcissus ‘Tete a tete’ (February) – delicate miniature daffodil ‘Tete-a-tete’ is a must for any garden. Bright yellow miniaturised petals flower surprisingly early and are perfect as a segueway into the taller pure white daffodil Narcissus ‘Thalia’ that flowers a little bit later.
  1. Narcissus ‘Thalia’ (March) – beautiful, elegant and pure white, this is a must have bulb for the spring border. Planted amongst beautiful self-seeding annual Myosotis sylvatica (Forget me not) or perennial Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ you’ll have a beautiful mix of sky blue and pure white flowers for weeks.
  1. Anemone blanda ‘Charmer’ (March-April) – beautiful low front of border bulbs that in mid spring to create a starry understory of colour in the garden.
  1. Tulipa ‘Ballerina’ (April) – this beautiful ‘Lily flowered’ tulips will flower for around a month offering excellent colour value at this time of year. Beautiful paired with Tulipa ‘Burgundy’ and or Tulipa ‘Merlot’
  1. Tulipa ‘Slawa’ – (April) this is new one to me, but what beauty! If you like high impact drama in your garden this one is for you. Beautiful paired with Tulipa ‘Van Eijk’ and Tulipa ‘Continental’.
  1. Allium hollanicum ‘Purple Sensation’ (May) – and oldie but a goody. Beautifully tall to around 90cm with large tennis ball sized heads that are a Chelsea Flower Show icon.


  1. Tulipa ‘Burgundy’ – (May) Rich purple, another ‘Lily flowered’ tulip that lasts well and looks incredibly elegant in any garden.

10. Tulipa ‘Spring Green’ (May) – another classic that no garden should be without. Like Narcissus ‘Thalia’ this one also looks good within a sea of baby blue Myosotosis (Forget me not)

How many bulbs should I buy and how can I combine them?

Getting into bulbs can seem complicated. But great quality suppliers like Sarah Raven and Peter Nyssen have done all the hard work for you and buying bulb collections is a great short cut to buying bulbs when you’re not an expert. Tulip collections and spring bulbs collections by colour give you a chance to learn what you like and give you a head start on the planting season. You can also make life easier by buying a bulb augur to help dig holes and a kneeler, or get someone else to do the planting for you!

It can be difficult to know exactly how many bulbs, but think in terms of hundreds rather than a tens of bulbs. Planting them is hard work, but it’s a valuable investment in life enhancing colour that will reward you in just a few months time.