Plant now for a spectacular spring show

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Cape Town – Did you know that flowers were a means of communication in Victorian times?

The language of flowers – known as floriography – was used to convey secret messages between lovers at a time when certain topics of conversation were taboo. The first flower dictionary was penned by Madame de la Tour of France in 1819.

Famous artists have captured the beauty of flowers on canvas, while writers have used their symbolism and secret messages in literature. Spring bulbs held deep and meaningful messages, with different colours implying a different message.

Tulips, hyacinths and daffodils were among the most popular spring flowers. A red tulip conveyed a message of love, while yellow daffodils signified a chosen one, highly regarded. Purple hyacinth was used to convey an apology.

 

Using bulbs in the garden

Autumn is the correct time to plant many of the bulbs that symbolise the coming of spring. Bulbs can be used in creative ways in the garden and are popular candidates for containers around the patio, especially those with a lovely fragrance.

Bulbs can be used with great success between shrubs and perennials in a mixed border. With careful planning you can create interesting colour combinations, both with bulbs and the shrubs and perennials that will be flowering around the same period.

Bulbs make excellent container candidates and can be planted in pots, window boxes or any interesting container, like an old wheelbarrow, for an eye-catching feature. Ensure that containers have adequate drainage.

 

Indigenous bulbs

Many of our stunning indigenous bulbs are native to the Western Cape and thrive in the winter rainfall climate. They may be planted in a mixed border, containers or in a rockery.

Ixia are versatile in borders and containers and will enjoy a sunny position in the garden. Freesias provide a mass of flowers in late winter into spring, in a myriad of colours from white to a deep orange and purple. They should be planted among shrubs or perennials to give them some support, and in a semi-shade area.

Other indigenous bulbs include sparaxis or the harlequin flower, lachenalia (winter flowering), forest lily (Veltheimia bracteata), Babiana villosa and Tritonia crocata.

 

Exotic bulbs

There is a host of exotic bulbs which thrive locally. Try these species:

* Anemones are available in vibrant purple, pink and red with a contrasting white. Stagger your planting time from autumn through to early winter to produce a long blooming period. Plant in a spot that has some shade from the midday sun.

* Daffodils should be planted when the soil starts to cool. They are very versatile flowers, best grown in groups in a mixed border of shrubs and perennials or in containers. Daffodils can be planted in full sun or semi-shade but avoid places where the soil is very hot.

* Dutch irises come in a range of colours from blue and violet to white, pink, bronze and various attractive colour combinations. Dutch irises can be included in mixed border, a sunny spot or an area with a dappled shade.

* Hyacinth looks spectacular in a mixed border and comes in a range of colours from deep purple to shades of pink and pure white. They make splendid container candidates. Plant in an area where they receive morning sun but are protected from the afternoon rays.

* Ranunculus produce an ongoing show from August into late spring, prolonged by deadheading the spent blooms. Plant them in full sun at a depth of 30mm. Prepare the beds well with compost and water well every few days after planting.

* Tulips are synonymous with springtime. Plant them in containers or in groups in the garden for impact. Tulips can be planted in full sun or semi-shade, about 80mm apart in a garden bed, with a 50mm covering of soil. Once the bulbs are planted, soil must be kept cool. Water well. Untreated bulbs can be planted in late April/early May. Treated bulbs are planted in early June and flower earlier than untreated bulbs.

 

Guidelines for planting bulbs

Success with bulbs can be achieved, provided the bulbs are planted at the correct time of the year and in a location that is similar to their natural setting. After planting, they also need a generous watering every four to five days.

* Choose the right location for the type of bulb you are planting – either full sun, semi-shade or the dappled shade under trees. Most bulbs enjoy a sunny spot but some prefer morning sun and shade from the harsh afternoon rays. Plant in a position where you can enjoy them from the windows of your home or close to the patio.

* While bulbs planted en masse are stunning, not all gardeners have the space to accommodate such extravagant plantings. For best effect in medium to smaller gardens, plant 10 to 30 bulbs in group, depending on their size.

* Prepare the bed by digging it over to a spade depth and add compost. Bulbs like soil that drains well.

* Automatic bulb planters are not essential, but they do make life easier. If you plan to plant a large number of bulbs, invest in one. Plant bulbs at a depth that is twice its diameter.

* Mulch to retain moisture and keep the soil cool.

Kay Montgomery, INDEPENDENT HOME

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