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Autumn Planting, Spring Flowering: Small Bulbs (Scilla, Chionodoxa)

This article discusses bulbs: the history, uses and occasionally the philosophy that surround the humble bulb.


Scilla, also known as squalls are found in many places, and indeed English bluebells were once classified as these and should be treated like them. These poorly known plants are fantastic for growing in lawns because they flower in early spring, providing incredible blue swathes of flower, before setting seed and bowing down . Unlike many bulbs, after flowers have started setting seed they can be mown over just in time for the first cut of the lawn. It thrives both in the lawn and in shaded poor soil. It can create vast drifts of blue that look stunning set against the green of lawns.


Scilla grow well and naturalise in either full sun or light shade and should be planted between 8-10cm deep. As with most bulbs they grow best in a well drained semi-fertile soil.


These bulbs are easy to maintain and they are generally trouble free. Remember they naturalise well from seed so clumps form rapidly and can spread prolifically.


Chionodoxa forbesii Also called Glory of the Snow, this bulb is fantastic. It is well deserving of its award of garden merit. These plants are best in slightly shady soil but can cope with full sun as long as the soil doesn't fully dry out. They are (much like the Scilla) well suited to growing in a lawn or as a companion to other spring bulbs or underplanting shrubs. Over time they will spread and form clumps. They flower in early spring.


Bulbs should be planted in September for best results as small bulbs do have a tendency to dry out. Plant them about 8cm deep and try to avoid very dry or very wet soil.


There are no pests or diseases that normally pose a problem to these plants, just allow the foliage to grow after the flower so it can recuperate for next year. Over time they will multiply and can be split and replanted elsewhere.

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