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Best bulbs to plant in spring that will flower in the summer

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T

he golden rule for planting is that when the weeds get going, conditions will be optimal for seeds, bulbs and shrubs too.

Well, the weeds are now up and running, so lose no time in getting your spring planting started.

To paraphrase William Morris, have nothing in your garden that you do not believe to be beautiful (in scent, form or colour) or know to be delicious. Most London gardens are small; make the space work.

The good news is that the big retailers have brilliant affordable plant, bulb and seed selections; many offer plants by name, not just by type and give the option of single colour, rather than mixed selections. They’re excellent value. However, many retailers only sell growing plants instore.

But first, the preparation. You need decent compost to give your plants a good start. Make it no-peat; it’s the simplest step we can take to help the environment.

For reliable results, bulbs and tubers are easiest.

Dalefoot peat-free wool compost for vegetables and salad

Dalefoot

Dalesfoot Wool Compost is bracken based, mixed with wool for water retention, plus comfrey for fertiliser and so is excellent. There’s a range for all purposes. Try the Peat Free Wool Compost for Vegetables and Salads.

Carbon Gold biochar compost – 10 litres

Carbon Gold

Carbon Gold biochar is an organic compost with seaweed with excellent environmental credentials. The seed compost gives seedlings the best start.

Homebase Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost – 50L

Homebase

Homebase does a good, peat-free all purpose compost at an affordable price tag. You can’t go wrong here.

Peonies

These are extraordinarily beautiful showstoppers: reliable, fragrant and productive, and insanely expensive to buy as cut flowers. Grow your own.

Wilko Peony Sarah Bernhardt Pink Perennial Spring Planting Bulb 1 pack

Wilko

Deservedly popular, very pretty pink, with a lovely scent, these will embellish your garden.

Peony Karl Rosenfield Flower Bulb

Peony

A beautiful rich deep pink-red with huge blooms.

Peony Lactiflora Shirley Temple

Peony

For white, try Shirley Temple with its sweet scented ruffled white blooms.

Dahlias

These are among the most beautiful and productive flowers. They have terrifically long-flowering with a fabulous range of colours and shapes. They flourish in a sunny corner. But if you want to encourage bees and pollinating insects, go for the open-face sort, especially the ones designated Bishops.

Peony Dahlia Bishop of Llandaff Flower bulb, Pack of 2

Peony

This is a magnificent intense red – a wonderful, productive flower.

Price for two.

Dahlia Bishop of Dover Flower Bulbs

Dahlia

A lovely white form, flushed with pink.

Price for two.

Lily of the Valley Flower bulb, Pack of 8

Lily of the Valley

Need I say why we should plant this fragrant, delicate flower with its graceful, bell-shaped flowers? Wonderful if you’ve got a bit of shade under a tree.

Price for eight.

Eucomis Autumnalis Flower Bulb

Eucomis

These are very classy. These unique looking lilies have a sturdy vertical spike in the border, with white greenish flowers and a kind of pineapple topknot. Good in clumps.

Iris ‘Black Dragon’ bearded iris

Iris

There are so many varieties of iris, but my very favourite are the deep, rich, dark flowers that are terrifically sophisticated.

Try the Black Dragon, a gorgeous blue-black form.

Clouds of Scent Sweet Pea Mix

Clouds of Scent

Among the most fragrant flowers you can grow: enormously floriferous with a wonderful range of colours. Cheapest to grow from seed, obviously, but if you haven’t time and space, Sarah Raven offers seedlings in very good quality collections. Make sure to water them well on arrival.

The Clouds of Scent (£17.95) is available for 12 seedlings or opt for the Pea and Bean Maypole (£26.95) – an elegant and simple structure with cords suspended from a metal pole that’s good for sweet pea too.

Roses

Well, obviously, roses. And we’ve all got our favourites. But this is where I’d go for broke, with two fantastically beautiful varieties, one climbing, one shrub.

Rosa ‘Souvenir du Docteur Jamain’

Rosa

A favourite of the great gardener, Vita Sackville West, a dark red climbing rose with a rich old rose scent. It flourishes on a north-facing wall, out of strong sunshine. A bit temperamental, but a divine colour.

English Shrub Rose Bred By David Austin

David Austin

A very lovely shrub rose with pretty soft pink flattish flowers and a delicious scent. Healthy to boot.

Salvia ‘Nachtvlinder’

Plants

These are perhaps the best border flowers of all, in a range of heights, with some of the most intense colour you’ll find. The velvety rich purples are my favourite, but I hear it for the vivid blues too. Good to underplant roses.

Chocolate Cosmos Flower Bulb

Chocolate Cosmos

Yes, I’m coming to Cosmos under seeds, but do consider the Chocolate Cosmos, a lovely chocolately red with a sweet, chocolatey scent, which comes as tubers.

Seeds

As far as I’m concerned, the best flower seeds are the ones you can chuck on the ground and leave to fend for themselves. There are any number of very good seed mixes you can buy which enable you to do just that, including ranges that are insect, butterfly or generally pollinator friendly. That’s the easy-peasy approach. But for single variety flowers, I’m similarly free and easy. Vegetables are another matter: here you either need to germinate at home or plant in rows and thin out. Seed tapes can space out seeds for you and you just plant a strip of paper; a very useful device.

Here are three easy flower seeds varieties, plus three good compact vegetables. Plus two seed tape options.

Cosmos

RHS

Cosmos are some of the easiest, most reliable cutting flowers you can grow: terrifically floriferous and easy to grow. If you can’t be bothered with the flaff of staking and supporting taller varieties, opt for more compact sizes.

Our favourites are the Cosmos Sensation Pinkie (£2.40) and Sweet Kisses (£2.40).

Cornflower

Sarah Ravens

These aren’t often seen in cornfields now but they’re fabulous for pollinators, lovely in wildflower blue, and very pretty in mixed colour form.

Country Living Poppy Paeony Black Seeds

Country Living

Easy to grow, flourishing on disturbed soil, they’re delicate, crumple-petalled, ephemeral splashes of vivid colour. The dark peony forms are crackers.

Vegetables

Country Living

Seed Tape

Nantes

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