Don’t miss out, it is still not too late to be planting bulbs. In fact, in the case of tulips, there is no real advantage of planting them any earlier. Tulip bulbs are triggered into growth when soil temperatures drop below 6 ºC. Planting tulips early simply means they have to sit in the ground and wait with all of the risks this might bring.
Alliums might prefer to be planted earlier than December, but since they are going to flower much later in the new year than tulips they have time to establish a good root system throughout the spring and will flower well.
One bulb that is better planted early is the daffodil. September is the best time, but in practice I have planted them as late as December and they have still flowered well. Perhaps the earlier planting enables them to establish better and will facilitate the formation of larger offset bulbs for future years.
The key to planning planting bulbs is to use sorts with different flowering times. Small things like snowdrops and Scillas might be the first to bring colour to your garden. Then there are the very early flowering tulips as shown above with Tulipa praestans closely followed by Darwinhybride tulips like Orange Emperor. Late flowering tulips such as Lily Flowered sorts like orange Ballerina or the near black Queen of Night are essential components of the late spring perennial border.
Ornamental onions such as Allium ‘Powder Puff’ and ‘Violet Beauty flower in early summer at the same time as early flowering Salvia ‘Caradonna’ (see top) and shrubs such as Deutzia, Prunus and Weigelia. Taller-growing varieties such as ‘Purple Sensation’ and ‘Mount Everest’ stand out well amidst burgeoning mixed borders in early summer before the main flush of perennials come into flower.
If you have time between now and Christmas don’t hesitate, just get outside and plant those bulbs. You will find that by December many garden centres have discounted their remaining bulbs and this means you can plant them in generous numbers for a really dramatic display next year.