Spring flowering bulbs are often the first signs of life after a long, hard winter. They bring welcome pollen and nectar for early foraging bees and, it goes without saying, untold joy to the gardener. Whose spirit hasn’t been lifted by a sweep of snowdrops pushing through the leaf litter, or a host of golden daffodils dancing in the breeze? It’s enough to make anyone wax lyrical!
Flower bulbs already have a lot going for them, but one way to really amp up the interest is to plant bulbs lasagne-style. This is exactly as it sounds: layers of bulbs, planted one on top of the other, in order to extend the flowering period or make the most of the available space.
How Lasagne Planting Works
Lasagne planting works a treat in garden borders or pots and tubs. Planting bulbs in mixed borders kickstarts the season of interest that little bit earlier, while container planting will help you to really maximise the kerb appeal of your display; whose day wouldn’t be brightened by the sights and scents of a colourful doorstep display?
The lasagne planting concept couldn’t be simpler. First into the ground or potting mix go the bulbs that must be planted deepest – usually the largest bulbs – followed by a layer of soil/potting mix. Next up are the medium-sized bulbs, again topped off by more growing medium. Then at the top sit the smallest bulbs that prefer a shallower planting depth.
Depending on what you plant, you can expect a steady succession of flowers or an orchestrated explosion of blooms vying for attention all at once. Some ambitious gardeners shoot for four or even five layers, maxing out their display to last for several glorious weeks.
Lasagne Planting Spring Bulbs
Plant spring flowering bulbs in the autumn, before the hard frosts arrive. This time of year may already be pushing it in some areas, so get on and plant double-quick! That said, I have had success planting daffodils as late as early January, giving a delayed but no less jaw-dropping display. But planting now means there’s plenty of cold weather to come, which signals to the bulbs that winter has arrived and primes them for growth.
Prepare borders for planting by digging in plenty of nutrient-rich garden compost or well-rotted manure. Work it right down into the ground to where the bulbs will be.
Alternatively, select deep containers with plenty of drainage holes in the bottom. Convention has it that the bottom of the container should be covered with stones, gravel or crocks (shards of broken pots) to further improve drainage. In fact this is unnecessary! Go straight in with a good-quality potting mix, followed by your first layer of bulbs, another layer of potting mix and so on, finishing with a layer of potting mix at the top.
As a general rule plant bulbs at two to three times their depth. This means that a tulip bulb of around 7cm (3in) tall might be planted so the bottom of the bulb eventually sits at around 18-20cm (7-8in) beneath soil level. But, like anything, there are exceptions to this rule, so for exact spacings check packet instructions or search online for one of handy excellent visual guides to planting depths like this (in centimetres) or this (in inches).
Pots can look a little bare until the first green shoots push through. Brighten things up from the off by finishing containers with hardy winter-flowering annuals such as pansies, which won’t affect the bulbs below.
Plan For A Succession of Flowers
The floral bonanza begins with super-early bulbs such as snowdrops, crocuses, winter aconites and dwarf irises. Modest flowers that bring outsized emotions of pure delight! Following on are the bulk of the springtime blooms, starting with the likes of daffodils, hyacinths and grape hyacinths (no relation). Then bringing the show to a rousing finale are late bloomers like tulips, crown imperials and the first of the ornamental alliums.
Bulbs are beautiful in so many ways, not least because they offer our hard-working pollinators something to get their year off to the best possible start. You’ll want them onside when your crops come into flower, and plenty of nectar and pollen will make things just a little bit easier for them at an inhospitable time of year.
Have you planted any bulbs this autumn? Let us know in the comments below what you’ve planted and spread the joy even further.