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THERE'S still time to plant your spring-flowering bulbs - and if you want to perk up some open grassland you could try naturalising it to create a riot of colour.

If you''ve ever walked through a sea of bluebells in the woods in spring, or wondered at the beauty of an endless carpet of snowdrops under trees or drifts of purple crocuses peeping through the grass, you''ll realise the value of naturalising bulbs. Natural drifts of flowering bulbs are one of the most welcoming sights of spring, whether in dappled shade or in large stretches of lawn where they appear in their full glory in the brilliant sunshine.

In meadows, camassias and fritillaries poke their heads out beyond longer grass, while later in the year autumn crocus bloom under trees when everything else has faded.

Some gardeners choose to plant narcissi in their lawns to add a splash of colourful contrast in the spring sunshine and there are many varieties which are ideal for this job, including the dwarf types N. Hawera and Tete a Tete.

You can naturalise bulbs even if you don't have a big garden. Some bulbs will do well under the canopy of a mature shrub or even at the foot of a hedge or wall, but if you want a wildflower look choose bulbs with small, delicate-looking flowers, avoiding big, bold, brash double-flowered daffodils or anything that would look better in a more manicured, orderly garden.

For a natural look, plant bulbs in random clumps and space them irregularly over the planting area, sticking to one type if you want drifts to maximise the effect. Avoid a geometric pattern at all costs. The traditional way is to drop a handful of bulbs on the ground and plant them where they fall. To naturalise bulbs in grass, remember that you will need to wait at least six weeks after the last flowers have faded before cutting the grass, to allow the leaves to produce the food for the developing bulbs below ground, which will provide next year's display.

Plant the bulbs in an area where you''ll be happy to leave the grass long for a few weeks while the leaves die down naturally.

When planting in grass, lift squares of turf with a spade, cutting around the turves to the required depth and then folding them back after planting and firming them down. As a rule, bulbs need to be planted at least three times the depth of the bulb and spaced at least twice its diameter, as they need space to multiply without becoming overcrowded. Planting a few clumps close to each other and scattering others a short way from the main colony will create a natural effect. If the grass is thin and the ground soft, you can use a bulb planter although I find these quite hard work if you are planting a lot of bulbs.

Good specimens for naturalising in grass include crocus, narcissi, muscari, camassia, erythronium, snowdrops, scilla and ornithogalum. Those which can do well under trees include Anemone blanda, winter aconite (eranthis), Chionodoxa luciliae and trillium. Most tulips don't look their best naturalised in grass. Taller single varieties may look stunning for just one season but may need to be lifted and many will need replacing every year.


GET DIGGING: It's not too late to plant springflowering bulbs which will add colour to your garden in a few months time ADDING COLOUR: Crocusses growing against a wall covered in moss, above, and others growing on a lawn, below LITTLE BEAUTIES: Snowdrops are well suited to be naturalised in grass
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Oct 14, 2010
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