Thinking Ahead: Making a Bulb Lasagne

No I haven’t gone mad, nor has our current self-isolation driven us to eating our bulbs for next spring – thankfully we do have plenty of food. A bulb lasagne is just layering up spring bulbs in a container so that you get a lovely succession of spring blooms as one type finishes and the other begins to flourish. It’s a great idea for small gardens like ours where we want to be as efficient as possible with the use of the space. I’ve been planting mine this weekend and looking forward to how they will look in the spring, and setting some intentions about what I want to get out of the time in between. For me this year it’s about patience and trying to appreciate the little things. Most bulbs can be planted from September until as late as December, and some – tulips in particular – prefer to be planted in the cooler months. It’ll be worth it come spring when the flowers start to bloom and we can hopefully have a beautiful flush of colour in the garden.

This year I’m using a couple of lightweight and frost-proof, zinc-effect metal pots that will be dotted around the garden. I’ve chosen a few tulip varieties, some narcissi and snowdrops to layer up in a triple layer bulb lasagne, but you can also use crocuses and hyacinths too. It’s my first time trying this way of planting bulbs, so it’s possibly a little ambitious to go straight for three layers, but fingers crossed that it will work.

The general rules I’m working to are:

  • There needs to be a good 10cm layer of compost in the bottom of the container before the first layer of bulbs;
  • The deepest layer wants to be no more than 30cm below the surface;
  • Larger, later-flowering bulbs (e.g. tulips) go in first, then smaller, earlier ones (e.g. crocuses and snowdrops) at the top.

My first layer is a mix of tulips. I’ve gone for a combination of Black Parrot, Mistress Mystic, and La Belle Epoque. The Black Parrot tulip has deep blackberry-coloured, filigree-like petals which are so striking and I think they’re absolutely stunning. Mistriss Mystic is a silvery, lavender-pink coloured flower with a more typical shape that will bring a soft colour, and La Belle Epoque is a showy, many-petal variety with a dusky-pink/coffee-bronze colour for a bit of frill. I think the combination of colours and textures will bring some lovely interest to the space and balance the stark grey fences and dark iron details.

After covering with a few centimetres of soil, I’ve planted my layer of narcissi (daffodils) which will flower in between the snowdrops and tulips. I’ve chosen the varieties Thalia and Salome as I think the white/cream colour will work better than a bright yellow in our garden and in case there’s any overlap with the tulips coming through just after. Thalia has a delicate, orchid-like shape with snowy-white petals and centre, and it apparently quite fragrant. Salome is a larger variety with light cream leaves and yellow trumpets that mature to peach.

It definitely feels bold to go straight in for a triple layer in my first attempt at a bulb lasagne, but I’ve snuck in some snowdrops in a top layer that should get things going early in the year. Their gorgeous tiny, drooping heads always lift my spirits when they arrive at the start of a new year, and I’m going to plant them all around the garden and allotment in the hope that they will gradually naturalise and come back year after year.

Wish me luck! I’ll probably need it given that these are going to be in our quite shady garden which isn’t generally a good thing for bulbs, but we’ll certainly find out, and we can always move them around the garden to maximise their sunlight – that’s a benefit of container growing. I’ll be sure to update in the spring when – hopefully – they will start to flower.

If you decide to have a go at making your own bulb lasagne, do let me know so we can experiment together! Feel free to get in touch and tag me in your progress on Instagram @plotandlane or in the comments below.

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