Buy winter and spring flowering bulbs

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Babiana. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaBabiana. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.za

It's time to purchase winter and spring flowering bulbs

Winter and spring flowering bulbs are usually available from March and you don’t want to miss out on your favourites, so buy them early! March can still be extremely hot and the soil temperatures are still far too high to plant out bulbs; so store them in a cool, dark and dry place until the temperatures drop significantly in April, or even May.

Tritonia. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaTritonia. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaAlso, prepare the beds for planting without delay. Bulbs require very well drained soil, so dig them over about 30cm deep; working in lots of compost. Sprinkle with an organic general purpose fertiliser like 2:3:2 (one handful per square metre) and a generous dressing of bone meal or hoof and horn meal. If you have clay or badly drained soil, add generous amounts of washed river sand to the soil, or consider planting in pots or raised beds. Water the beds lightly and allow them to lie fallow until planting time.

If you are mixing bulbs together with other garden plants and annuals, a bit of planning pays off in the long run; and besides correct preparation of the beds, the next most important consideration is to determine how much sun your beds will receive in winter and spring. This will greatly influence your plant selection. Also, the ultimate flowering height of the bulb is most important; especially if you are planting on top of your bulbs.

TIP: Place a white pebble on the ground on top of each planted bulb. This will prevent you from damaging the bulbs when over-planting.

Small winter and spring flowering annuals like pansy, viola, lobelia and alyssum work well with most bulbs; providing continuous colour right through winter and into spring, when the bulbs pushing through the planted Sparaxis. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaSparaxis. Picture courtesy www.hadeco.co.zaseedlings make a glorious display. If the over-planting of bulbs is well planned the seedlings will not swamp the bulbs, or grow too tall. Over-planting also acts as living mulch around the roots of your bulbs, keeping them cool and conserving moisture.

Consider including some of our gorgeous indigenous bulbs like Babiana, Freesias, Sparaxis, Tritonia, Ixias, Gladioli, Ornithogalum and Lachenalias; and remember to leave space for planting out Daffodils, Narcissus and Hyacinths which only arrive in the stores towards the end of March. Tulips are usually available from late April; and Liliums from May.

I hope the following selection will help you plan an inspiring winter and spring garden.

Wind Flower (Anemone)
+-50cm tall, hardy, full sun

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Cape Cowslip (Lachenalia)
+-20cm tall, hardy, sun

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Dutch Iris
+-50 to 80cm tall, hardy, sun or semi-shade.

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Daffodils and Narcissus
Vary in height, hardy, sun or shade

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Corn Lily (Ixia)
+-30 to 60cm tall, semi-hardy, sun

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Chincherinchee (Ornithogalum)
 +-50cm tall, hardy, sun

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Garden Montbretia (Crocosmia)
+-40cm tall, sun, hardy

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Baboon Flower, Bobbejaantjie (Babiana)
+-12cm tall, sun, tender to frost

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Snowflakes (Leucojum)
+-40cm tall, hardy, semi-shade

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Tulips
Vary in height, sun to shade, hardy

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Grape Hyacinth (Muscari)
+-15cm tall, hardy, semi-shade

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Garden Hyacinth (Hyacinthus)
+-20cm tall, semi-shade, hardy

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Freesia
+-20cm tall, hardy, sun or semi-shade

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Spring Starflower (Ipheion)
+-20cm tall, sun, hardy

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Florist Allium (Allium)
+-30cm tall, semi-shade, hardy

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Belladonna Lily (Amaryllis belladonna)
 +-1m tall, sun to part shade, semi-hardy

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Persian Buttercup (Ranunculus)
+-30cm tall, sun to part shade, semi-hardy

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Brodiaea (Brodiaea)
+-30cm tall, sun to semi-shade, semi-hardy

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