episode 143 | show notes & advice
This week, Gardener Designer, Carien Van Boxtel, joins Sarah to share her top 12 bulbs for year-round naturalising. Discover Carien’s top tips for perfect planting schemes and learn everything you need to know about creating a garden that’s bursting with colour and texture.
Episode 143 advice sheet
Carien’s top 12 (3:30)
- Galanthus nivalis (Common Snowdrop)
- Galanthus elwesii (Greater Snowdrop)
Carien’s dessert island choice for a beautiful winter garden. Snowdrops emerge in Holland (and the UK) from around January and produce lovely little white bells that sing from the lawn. These are a fuss free plant and will bulk up relatively easily. Galanthus ‘S. Arnott, a British variety, is another favourite as it’s quite large, so is better for visibility. Mix varieties to prolong the flowering period.
- Crocus minimus 'Spring Beauty'
- Crocus tommasinianus
- Crocus 'Orange Monarch'
These plants are easy to care for and come in a variety of shapes and colours. Carien likes to plant these in a ‘carnival style’, making the most of the different colours and styles for impact.
Scilla and Chionodoxa (12:00)
- Scilla mischtschenkoana
- Scilla siberica
Incredibly perennial and strong, this will grow anywhere. It also looks lovely mixed with snowdrops, as the blue of the scilla enhances the white tones of the snowdrops. Chionodoxa is another colourful favourite that is truly hard to beat.
- Narcissus 'Actaea'
Many are super perennial and naturally self-seeding, making narcissus the perfect choice for naturalising. Avoided by deer, chickens, and mice, they also come in a variety of yellows, creams, and whites, also joined by the fashionable pink varieties. Narcissus 'Actaea' is a particularly successful variety, super early and perfect for growing in grass. Sarah also loves Narcissi ‘Hawera’ for naturalising in grass.
- Tulipa clusiana 'Lady Jane'
This variety flowers at the same time as Narcissus 'Actaea' which makes it a winning combination in Carien’s book. For growing in meadows and grass, Carien loves Tulipa turkestanica which will flower ahead of any tulip and is beautiful with silvery grey streaks. After flowering, you’re also left with lovely seedheads.
In addition, Tulipa Sylvestris looks wonderful in grass and is highly scented. The bent stems add character and the flowerheads look like little golden crowns.
Leucojum aestivum (20:35)
Great for damp lawns, this plant is truly hard to beat. Producing long stems with delicate little flowers, this plant is also good for cutting straight from the lawn for vases. Carien also adores the Fritillaria meleagris, also known as ‘Snake’s head fritillary,’ for its unique checkerboard pattern. This variety needs moisture to succeed. Great for the edge of a pond!
Muscari azureum (22:25)
Although muscari can typically be quite boring in the grass due to its masses of green foliage, the azureum variety has particularly long stems and comes in a lovely sky blue. A truly welcome addition for naturalising as their height makes them super visible so they stand out in the lawn.
Camassia quamash (23:42)
An American prairie plant that’s also an edible bulb and cut flower, this looks wonderful in a meadow setting, as it does at Great Dixter. Carien finds that this works very well in grass, and as a late naturalising bulb, don’t forget to adapt how you mow your lawn to accommodate this variety.
Carien’s tips for naturalising in grass (26:15)
- Plan your mowing carefully – Carien explains that you need five or six weeks after the last spell of flowering. If you prefer to cut your grass earlier, use early flowering varieties, and if you’re more patient, go for April and May flowering varieties.
- If you’re planting in grass, do this incrementally for sustained colour and interest throughout the spring and summer months. This will also stop things from becoming too busy. Carien suggests taking pictures so you can remember what you’ve planted and when.
- Mow your lawn in November – This simple step will ensure that when the first snowdrops appear, the grass isn’t too high. If you want to keep some parts longer to increase biodiversity, make sure you plant your early bulbs in the shorter grass, otherwise you won’t see anything!