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in     by Joyce Bullock 08-11-2015

You can take some time over the next few weeks, just half an hour or so, to prepare a pot that will give you a long lasting display for Spring.

pot of tulips and muscari
Get yourself a large pot, in the trade they are known by their size in litres, but as this is printed on the underside of a plastic plant pot that isn't always helpful.  So, a large pot approx 12inches/30cms across the top.  This isnt massively important, if you have a smaller or larger pot then that will be fine. Most garden centres have a container for pot recycling, so if necessary you can always have a look there.

You will also need some compost, again available at the garden centre (often with a deal of 3 for £10/£12, usually worth having...) and a selection of bulbs.  These days you will find a reasonable selection of bulbs in packets at supermarkets, larger diy stores as well as the likes of Wilko's and garden centres.  To get the best display that will give a long flowering period choose snowdrops and/or crocus that will come up early, then some narcissus, along with some grape hyacinths or scillas and some tulips which will follow on flowering after the others.

bulb packets

The idea is that you plant all of your bulbs in the pot, layering them like a lasagne, pop it somewhere outdoors until late winter, then as the early bulbs come into leaf, position it near the front door or where you can enjoy it most and take pleasure in having such a lovely, long lasting display.

Here's how to do it.

Taking your clean pot, lay a few inches of compost in the bottom, around 4inches/10cms, press down gently to remove any air pockets and lay your tulip bulbs around the pot at equal spacings. 

Have a look at your bulbs, they do have a top and a bottom, with a flatter bottom that often has old dried roots showing and a 'pointy' top.  Needless to say, the top needs to be uppermost when you place your bulbs.  Nothing drastic will happen if you plant them on their side or even upside down, but they will have to do more growing to get right way up and showing!  Place more compost over the bulbs, dont worry that they are a long way down the pot, its fine.

tulips on compost in pot

When you have placed a few inches of compost on top of your tulip bulbs (about 3/4inches worth)lay your narcissus bulbs.  I like the double headed fragrant varieties such as Cheerfulness, or Minnow, a smaller delicate variety.  Again, place them pointy end up and put compost over.  Firm that down with your hand and start on your next bulbs, I use grape hyacinths next, the two tone blue ones are gorgeous.  It doesnt matter if your top layer of bulbs are directly over your lower layer of bulbs, they all find their way up. 

muscari bulbs sat on compost in pot

Finally, after placing more compost over your third layer of bulbs you will add your snowdrops and/or crocus.  These tend to be the smallest bulbs of your selection and can sit quite shallow in the compost.  Place them right way up, lay a couple of inches (at least) of compost over and write yourself some labels with your varieties on.

snowdrop bulbs on compost in pot
Its helpful to have labels poking out of your pot, because until the leaves start to show in late winter, your pot will look quite uninspiring, just as though you have a pot of compost and nothing else.  Of course, you have all sorts of things going on in that pot, but until you can see signs of growth, it all looks quite dull.

label saying tulip Angelique
Once you have buds coming up bring the pot to where you can see it and you will have a long lasting display in Spring.  Not only does this bring cheer to your garden but the flowers will be a useful source of nectar for the bees, at a time when there may be few flowers around.

bulbs showing through compost in spring

After flowering you can plant the bulbs in your garden or simply leave in the pot, all ready for next year.  If you do leave them in the pot, keep it somewhere out of sight (again, its not looking very interesting in summer, its done its 'bit' in Spring) but where it can still be kept watered or get rained upon.

There are many different bulbs you can use, shorter alliums are great for late flower, small irises have a fabulous colour, there are so many different daffies and tulips to choose from.  I like to use the parrot tulips, but you might go for a colour theme with peachey tones, or clashing brights....

Whatever your selection, you will have a beautiful pot of colour for a couple of months, when many things are still sleeping in the garden.

parrot tulip
Go on, take half an hour and do something beautiful!