|How to buy
When buying bulbs check to see that they're healthy or you spring explosion of colour will turn into a disappointing fizz. The best bulbs are firm and full bodied with no damage or premature growth.
It’s best to discard soft, shrivelled up, battered or mouldy bulbs from the pick and mix box. It is a little more difficult to gauge the quality of pre-packed bulbs, but have a good feel of the contents through the bag and put it back on the shelf if any feel squishy.
When buying from a mail-order supplier; on arrival open up the packet and check out the contents immediately. If you're not happy with the quality, phone and ask for a replacement to be sent out.
Where to plant
Bulbs are phenomenally versatile and can be planted virtually anywhere, in the border, naturalised into grass or grown in pots. Low-growing bulbs do well in all sorts of containers.
Either plant single varieties in pots filled with bulb fibre from your garden centre, or break the mould and layer different bulb types in one container. For best results choose flowers that appear at the same time (which may take a little practice).
After planting, protect from foraging animals such as squirrels by placing a little chicken wire over the top. It may not look pretty but it will save the bulbs from being disturbed and can be removed when growth begins to appear in late winter.
Around the garden, bulbs are ideal for growing in beds to plug gaps in a border, while crocus, dwarf daffodils and snowdrops can also be naturalised into your lawn.
When initially planting avoid rows and to make it look as if the bulbs have grown naturally by dropping a handful from waist height and plant them where they land, repeating in several areas across your or beds or lawn.
A hand trowel is adequate for planting a few bulbs, but if you need to plant a large sack of bulbs, it's worth buying a long handled bulb planting tool. These make light work of planting, and help if you suffer from a bad back. To use, simply push into the ground, twist and pull out a core of soil. Drop in the bulb and crumble the plug of soil to fill the hole.
If you're naturalising in a lawn, put the cap of turf back on top. Some planters have markers on to help get the planting depth right but in general, most varieties need a hole depth three times the size of the bulb.
Always plant the bulbs upwards, if you are in any way unsure which end is “up” then it’s better to plant the bulb on its side!