Spring bulbs light up the garden with their bright colours, heralding the end of the dark winter months and the start of a new year. Their cheerful flowers are full of the promise of sunshine.
Many of us grow spring bulbs in pots and borders, but a great design idea is to ‘naturalise’ them. This means planting them underneath the lawn so they add a punch of colour to the grass.
It’s a great way to brighten up a plain green space and get more flowers in your garden.
Aim for a natural random pattern with bulbs scattered all around the lawn. Or create rings and spirals, which look great around a central feature or tree. Here’s how to naturalise spring bulbs under grass.
Which bulbs to plant
Choose early-flowering bulb varieties so that the display is finished in time for you to start mowing the grass.
Great choices include crocus, snowdrops, chionodoxa (glory of the snow) and early-flowering narcissus like ‘February Gold’, ‘Peeping Tom’ and ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’.
Naturalised bulbs also create interest in dry, shady spots under trees and hedges. These varieties need to be happy in shade – crocus, scilla, anemones and autumn-flowering cyclamen are perfect.
How to plant naturalised bulbs
Get spring bulbs in the ground in autumn so they have time to establish before the winter cold sets in. For a natural placement, simply scatter the bulbs around the lawn and plant them where they land. This prevents the display from appearing too ordered and contrived.
But make sure to leave plenty of space between each bulb. Overcrowding will reduce flowering – space them at least twice their width apart.
Dig a planting hole in the lawn with a trowel or bulb planting tool. The hole should be two to three times as deep as the height of the bulb. For example, a 5cm high bulb should be planted 10-15cm deep. Get a free guide to planting bulbs here.
Place the bulb in the hole with the roots at the bottom and the pointy tip facing up. Use the lightbulb technique to ‘push and twist’ the bulb into the soil. This ensures there are no gaps underneath the bulb for water to collect and rot the bulb.
Backfill the hole with the soil you dug out and replace the turf, making sure it’s level with the surrounding grass.
To plant small bulbs like crocus and scilla, it might be easier to simply dig up and peel back a section of turf, rather than digging individual holes.
Fork over the base of the hole to loosen the soil and plant the bulbs as before. Gently fork the back of the turf too and lay it back down, firming it in with the back of a rake.
How to make bulb rings and spirals
If your lawn has a central feature, like a tree or bird bath, use this as the middle point. Otherwise, measure the width and length of your lawn to find out where the half way points intersect. Mark the central spot with a pole or garden cane.
To make a ring, work out how far outwards from the central feature you want to bulbs to grow, then measure a length of string that’s double the distance. Wrap the string around your pole, tree trunk or feature and tie it to create a loop.
Then pull the string tight and walk around the feature using the string as a guide, placing bulbs as you go. Go back and plant them once your pattern is complete. It will create a ring that’s the perfect distance from the central feature all the way round.
To create a spiral, follow the method above to mark out the central feature. Then measure a length of string from the central point to the edge of the lawn (the radius). Attach the string to the central point and wind it evenly around.
Then slowly unwind the string, placing a bulb on the ground at intervals as you go. It will open up into a spiral outwards from the central point. Go back and plant the bulbs where you placed them. Your display will brighten up the lawn in spring!
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.
Leave A Comment