How to make a bulb lasagne


How to make a bulb lasagne

I’m planting up a bulb lasagne which is basically like lasagne because it has layers in it. It's a really brilliant way of planting in a pot, particularly with bulbs, because what happens is that you put the smallest, earliest ones on the top and they come up and obviously find nothing in the way. Then you can put the slightly bigger, later ones underneath and what happens is that the growth shoot hits the bulb above and it just curves around it and carries on. If you get a Perspex-sided pot, you can actually see it happening - the shoot coming up and then curving around.

You can cram lots of different layers into a bulb lasagne, so what I'm going to do is I'm going to put crocuses on the top and then I'm going to put a really lovely narcissus called ‘Pueblo’, which is scented and beautiful in a pot. And then in the bottom layer I'm going to put two tulips, two of my absolute favourites (they’re late); one is called ‘Orange Favourite’ which is absolutely deliciously scented of freesias and the latest tulip that I grow here in the garden. I’ve found a really good partner for that one now, which is a brand new parrot (‘Orange Favourite’ is also a parrot) and it's purple - purple and orange are two of my favourite colours. It's just spectacular, it’s called ‘Muriel’, and you often get three or four heads on one stem but they're huge and beautiful and kind of rippled and very much kind of like parrot feathers - really stunning.

So what I should have, with the crocus on the top layer, is flowers in February and March then the narcissus will come and it will certainly do April because it’s quite a late one and then the tulips will do late April/May. So in theory, just in one pot, by lasagne-ing them I should get that succession - which is exciting.

So what I'm doing here is just breaking up the compost because it's a bit lumpy so I just want to break that up a bit. I'm going to use a non-peat-based, multi-purpose potting compost and I'm going to mix into that, with it being bulbs, a little bit of grit. I tend to do a proportion of about three-quarters compost to one-quarter grit, but there’s already compost in the bottom of this pot and I'm not going to bother to knock all of that out but I am going to replenish in the top. This pot has got farmer manure in it so it's quite good for feeding. I'm also going to throw in a handful of comfrey pellets which help to feed the bulbs and that's a good thing too.

I've gone down there to about eight inches and then my first layer of bulbs can go in. The deepest ones are the two tulips, so I've got my ‘Orange Favourite’, and in a pot you can plant tulips closer than you would in the ground because you want a really intense show but they aren't going to be as perennial. I'm not going to expect to get a spectacular flower out of these; I'm hoping for them to do a second year but I wouldn't really expect a third year. I'm putting them quite widely spaced and then I’m going to mix in the ‘Muriel’. I could even do four layers here and I could put the ‘Orange Favourite’ and the ‘Muriel’ in two different layers and then the narcissus and then the crocus, but I think that's overkill - I think three layers is enough.

I'm going to mix these up, almost touching but not quite touching, just in case any of them have got a virus or anything. Also, tulip blight is much worse when you over-pack because when they grow there’s there no air circulation between them and so one spore will then really quickly infect the whole lot.

So they’re pretty close, maybe I could get one more in there without them touching and then I'll be back for my mixture. You do make a bit of a mess which is why I’ve got my newspaper. I literally just want to cover that, I don't need to do more than cover it because they will find their way around it, and then I'm going to push in my narcissus which are lovely big bulbs.

I'm going to push the narcissus bulbs right in; you don't need to worry about what's going on underneath. So again, put quite a few bulbs in there. I’ve put eleven, that’s about enough. And then in the top I’ll put another layer of grit and compost mix and then I’ll add the crocus. I could just do one colour but actually I rather love this mixture which is what I call an ‘ice-blue’ mixture of crocus. It includes ‘Snow Bunting’, which is a lovely white, and ‘Cream Beauty’, which is also a lovely cream with a sort of orange centre and is slightly scented, and the ‘Blue Pearl’ which is a lovely mauve-y, very pale soft blue. They’re going to go in next. Of course, because they’re tiny, I'm actually going to put thirty of these in the top layer and really pack them in so they’re almost touching. They just look so fantastic. Obviously, I’ll need to mix them up.

The great thing is that the crocus will come on so early that they will have gone over and will die back just as the narcissus foliage comes up and covers them. And then, because I’ve chosen such late duo of tulips, the same should apply; the narcissus foliage is dying back as the tulips come up and it should work beautifully.

With crocuses in a container I really do think the more the merrier. What I am going to do is pop this inside, in the greenhouse, to try and force the crocus on a little earlier than they would naturally flower so I get the greatest differential between when the first bulb comes (the crocus) and then I’ll move them outside until the last one comes, which is the tulip.

It always sinks down as you water it. You don't want to come right to the top so there is room for some water, although of course at this time of the year water is much less of an issue. Just tap it down a bit and then it's nice, I think, to just top dress with a little bit of grit because crocuses look so nice poking up through the grit, almost like you would see them coming up through the scree in the White Mountains in Crete, where you would find them naturally. It sort of feels more part of their landscape.

One of the important things when you’re choosing a pot to do a bulb lasagne is to have a decent depth and that’s why I've gone for a long tom. I mean something massive with a big girth as well as the depth would be lovely, but the great thing about these long toms is that they can get really good root growth for the tulips and the narcissi. Crocuses don't have very deep roots anyway so they're just at the top. It just means that with my narcissi about here and my tulips about here, they've got lots and lots of compost and goodness to grow into and so will flower well, producing good foliage and good flowers that last for ages.

 Happy gardening,


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