Gardening Doesn’t Get Any Easier Than This!

Travel writer Pat Richardson shares the pleasure of her own little corner of heaven to come home to

I’ve always been a big fan of bulbs, because even as an absolute beginner of a gardener, you – almost – can’t go wrong with them. Dig, drop, cover, water, wait – that’s it! What could be simpler? And a few months from now, you’ll be rewarded with glorious swathes of colour.

In my garden, there’ll be tulips galore, and plenty else besides. Purple crocus ‘necklaces’ edging the lawn, winter aconites, narcissi, fragrant hyacinths, leucojum – which look like tall snowdrops – and vibrant blue brodiaea Queen Fabiola. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about spring bulbs it’s this: less is not more. More is more! If what you want to achieve is the wow! factor, plant 50 or even 100 – not five.

Another rule that works for me is this: smaller and daintier flowers look best when planted in masses of just one colour. As with most rules, there’s an exception: crocus – which look wonderful in mixed colours. Tulips, I find, look good either way. In pots for the patio, I plant single varieties, or two complimentary colours – a pink and a purple, perhaps; or a plain white such as Tacoma, with white-and-purple Shirley. A few bigger pots might get these two plus a third, in plain purple – I might choose slightly ruffled Passionale. As in flower arranging, I prefer an odd number of bulbs in my pots, and never the same number of any two colours.

I also put tulips into my flowerbeds, and am happy to mix more colours there. The further they are from the house, the more pale colours I use so they’re easily seen. I’ll be planting alliums, too, for next summer. They may be onions at heart, but don’t under-rate the effect of these fabulous floral fireworks – of which I’ll write more another time.

Finally, a few tips for you. Plant bulbs at three times the depth of their height (that’s the bulb’s height – not the flower’s, of course). Pick the right location – usually somewhere warm and sunny, but always check the instructions to be sure. And, for the most natural-looking effect, scatter them over the ground, then plant them where they fall.

As I said at the beginning, what could be simpler?

Pat Richardson has many years experience as a travel writer including 16 years as Travel Editor on Best Magazine. She has since turned freelance and writes mainly for the Daily Telegraph’s Escorted Travel and Cruise Supplements. As well as tending her own delightful Kew garden, she runs, a writing and editing service and consultancy, and, a website showcasing properties with a past.