How to make a spring bulb planter

Thomas Broom-Hughes
This beautiful arrangement, using potted spring flowers and greenery, will give you an instant burst of cheerful colour - Heathcliff O'™Malley

At this time of year, when the days are brightening up but the garden isn’t yet in full flow, a planter filled with spring blooms and greenery makes for an uplifting centrepiece.

This beautiful arrangement, using potted spring flowers and greenery, will give you an instant burst of cheerful colour before the rest of the garden comes into bloom.

Place on a garden table or on a patio, where it can be seen from the house, to brighten up the view into the garden, whether or not it’s warm enough to sit outside.

Here, Thomas Broom-Hughes, director of horticulture at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond, gives us a step-by-step guide to planting the arrangement.

You will need:

  • A planter with a drainage hole and a diameter of around 50cm. Thomas recommends using a footed planter like this one to elevate the arrangement and give it more wow factor

  • Peat-free compost

  • A mix of potted spring bulbs and greenery – Thomas used: Daffodils, Narcissus Tête-à-Tête, Primula Silver-laced, Fritillaria meleagris (snake’s head fritillary), Ferns, Euphorbia x martini, Oxalis (wood sorrels), Muehlenbeckia complexa (necklace vine) and moss

Step 1

Start by covering the drainage hole with terracotta crocks to aid drainage and ensure the roots of your plants won’t be sitting in water. If you don’t have crocks to hand, you could use polystyrene packing chips or gravel instead.

Tip: If using crocks, make sure you place them with the curved side facing up, so that the water runs off.

Step 2

Fill the planter with compost, leaving around 5cm clear at the top of the planter.

Tip: Shape the compost into a dome; that way you can create more structure when you add the plants, giving more height to the flowers that will be planted in the centre.

Step 3

Take the daffodils out of their pot and separate the bulbs into clumps.

Make a dip in the centre of the dome of compost and push in a clump of daffodil bulbs. Plant others a little lower down the dome, so that the flowers stand at varying heights.

Tip: Push sticks into the compost to help support the daffodils so that they don’t flop over: twigs from the garden look more natural than bamboo sticks.

Step 4

Plant the greenery: Thomas added a fern on one side of the arrangement, and a euphorbia on the other side, to give structure and a balanced look.

Tip: To give the arrangement a good shape, push the fern and euphorbia into the compost at a slight angle, so that they face outwards, away from the daffodils at the centre and towards the edge of the planter.

Step 5

Separate the narcissus bulbs and plant little groups of flowers, around the edge of the planter.

Step 6

Add the primula. Plant some towards the edge of the planter, and again, push them into the compost at an angle, so that they fan out a little.

Plant others slightly higher up the dome of compost, closer to the centre, to fill in any gaps; this also gives the effect of the way the flowers grow naturally in the wild.

Tip: At this stage, you don’t need to make a hole for each plant as you will be backfilling with more compost later. Simply remove it from the pot and push it gently into the compost.

Step 7

Gently push the oxalis plants in at the edge of the planter; the deep colour of the leaves gives a nice contrast to the greenery.

Repeat with the necklace vine plants, filling in any gaps by pushing the plants into the compost at intervals around the edge of the planter, so that the leaves cascade over the sides.

Step 8

Dot in the snake’s head fritillary, towards the centre of the planter, wherever you feel the arrangement needs more height and movement.

Take a look at the arrangement from a bit of a distance, and dot in any further flowers or greenery if you spot any patches that need more colour.

Step 9

Backfill with compost – push handfuls of compost into the surface to ensure all the plants are held in place and fill in any gaps, making sure the planter isn’t too overfull and the compost doesn’t fall over the edge.

Finish with some moss: take small handfuls of moss and push it gently into the top of any visible compost, to cover it up and help to keep it in place.

Tip: Thomas has used sustainably sourced flat moss, which you can buy from a garden centre; alternatively, you might also be able to find it in your garden.

Planter close up
The end result - Heathcliff O'™Malley

The arrangement should last for a couple of months. The daffodils and narcissus will be the first to die back; when they do, remove the bulbs and replant in the border, or in the grass, and replace with other flowers, such as geraniums, if you wish. The greenery can be left in the planter, or removed and planted in the garden if you want a change later in the season.

Petersham Nurseries is holding a series of floral workshops throughout spring at its Richmond and Covent Garden locations; for information, visit petershamnurseries.com

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