Louise Curley

02 Apr 2024 11:46

Doorstep Bulbs

Spring bulbs bring the garden to life after a long, drab winter, their shots of colour providing a much-needed lift to the spirits. The one downside to many spring bulbs though is their height – they are often diminutive plants and to appreciate them fully you’d have to get down on your hands and knees. Their short stature also means they need to be planted in large drifts to make an impact, which is not always possible in a small garden. However, there’s a much easier way to make the most of these spring beauties and that’s to gather them together by the front or back door of your house, whichever you use the most, so that they have a greater impact and you can get up close to them. 


Create a display

You could gather a collection pots together on the ground but creating a stand means you can raise pots up. This is useful if some bulbs need really good drainage (lots do) and it is a great way to get closer to the flowers, especially those that are scented.

I have a wirework chair I bought about ten years ago from a vintage shop in Bath that’s positioned by the back door in a sheltered spot that gets lots of sun. The chair’s becoming increasing rusty but I like the aged look, and the seat is the ideal platform for a gathering of terracotta pots filled with pretty bulbs. Once the bulbs have finished flowering I replace them with my collection of succulents or pelargoniums for a summer display.

You could repurpose a set of old wooden ladders using the steps as perches for pots or use an old bookcase. Or if you’d prefer something new there are plenty of purpose-built plant stands available online. If space is tight make the most of any windowsills, either positioning pots on the window ledge or attaching a window box below the window using brackets.

Tiered effect

Miniature daffodils, grape hyacinths (muscari), species tulips, crocus and Iris reticulata make for a colourful display that will last for several months, with some bulbs flowering early in spring and others following on afterwards.

Their short stature makes these the perfect candidates for being raised up off the ground. Then for extra colour and impact include some taller bulbs such as flamboyant tulips, fritillaries or hyacinths in larger pots on the ground.

Plant partners

You don’t need to rely entirely on bulbs for the wow factor. You can boost your display with other spring plants such as wallflowers, the pompom flowers of Bellis perennis or ranunculus.

My favourites are primulas, whether that’s the native primrose, with its exquisitely pretty buttery yellow blooms or hybrids with larger, more colourful flowers such as ‘Stella Champagne’ or the Golden Nugget series. Violas planted last autumn will also put on another flush of flowers as winter gives way to spring. 

Final touches

It can be nice flourish to cover bare soil with a mulch of grit. I sometimes use crushed shells that are a by-product of the shell-fish trade – it’s now possible to buy bags of this mulch as a more sustainable option to gravel or grit. Another option is to gather up some dried leaves and scatter them on the surface of the compost, creating a woodland feel in your pots.