News: A Special Little Bulb


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A Special Little Bulb

This week I have been researching bulbs for my 2022 Spring catalogue. It struck me that so much of my working life is not very much different than that performed by my forefathers over 160 years ago. For a moment I contemplated a possible the lack of progress but truly, I am very fortunate to continue in their footsteps. This moment lasted 90 seconds, in medieval times an hour was divided into 40 moments rather than 60 minutes, more my pace. They will have struggled in much the same way as I do over what bulbs to include from the many hundreds of varieties available.

The catalogue needs to reflect the current colour and planting trends for the garden, the best performing varieties but it is also important to showcase some of the more rare and uncommon plants that I feel often get overlooked. What makes for a rare bulb? It may be difficult to grow or low yielding and therefore expensive or may have just fallen from public attention. Many of these bulbs are now only grown by single growers who have a passion for a particular flower.

A good example from my current catalogue is Tecophileae cyanocrocus Leichtlinii, known as the Chilean blue crocus. Very, very few of my customers buy these, we have so far sold five, but I include them because they are possibly my favourite spring flower. Call them an indulgence, I do not want to see them disappear. Certainly expensive, and although easy to grow, do not significantly increase year to year. 

These most beautiful of bulbs bear crocus like flowers of rich sky blue with a white centre and have a lovely fragrance. They require a light well drained soil and sunny position. Growing to a height of 10cm with the flowers 3-4cm in diameter they flower March/April. Ideal for the rock garden or against a sunny wall, a sheltered position is important, they are only just frost tolerant. Given the cost it is advisable to give them some winter protection. Consider growing them in a cold frame and then moving them indoors to a bright position when the first colour starts to appear. This will give the greatest enjoyment of the flowers and fragrance.

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