There is seldom a more welcome sight than the arrival of our native spring bulbs heralding the hope of warmer times to come. They thrive in our wooded areas and naturalise in grass to brighten our dullest days.
Bulbs such as snowdrops (Galanthus), bluebells (Hyacinthoides) and winter aconites (Eranthis) can be planted as dry, dormant bulbs in the autumn. However there can often be problems with the success rate of growing them by this method. They have often been left hanging around at the garden centre for too long and they have dried out. With these smaller types of bulbs, drying out can scupper their chances of growing. Growing from dry bulbs, whilst cheap, is not the most successful method.
The best way to avoid this uncertainty is to plant these bulbs in the green. This simply means that the bulbs are lifted whilst still in leaf when you can be sure that they have grown successfully for one season. These are lifted from the ground by nurseries and transported to you, often in moist packaging. These are usually purchased from the mail order nurseries.
Also existing groups of these bulbs you may have in the garden can be divided and replanted to increase your stock whilst still in leaf, shortly after flowering. They are usually replanted in small groups and left to seed themselves around and gradually increase in number.
The bulbs should be replanted at the same level at which they were originally planted in the ground. You will know the level as the leaves will be green at the top, but will be white in the lower area that has been beneath the soil.
It is often said that the best method to plant the bulbs in the most natural looking way is to pick up the bunch and gently throw it. The bulbs should then be planted where they land.
Dig a small hole and spread out the roots a little. Backfill with the soil and firm down. Water in and keep them moist in dry spells whilst they are still in leaf. Sometimes the shock of division can leave them reluctant to flower the next year, but often they will delight you with their welcome blooms the following spring.
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