With a wide choice of spring bulbs now available in garden centres and from bulb specialists, it’s difficult to know which varieties to choose and is often tempting to stay with old favourites.
But there is a flurry of new bulbs worth trying, according to a trial of daffodils and tulips by Which? Gardening, the Consumers’ Association magazine, which also suggests that new varieties produce better results than some older types.
Triallists found that the new bulbs had a more regular height and consistent flowering time, giving an overall better display than the older ones.
Last autumn, triallists tested 53 new types of spring-flowering daffodils and tulips, growing them alongside five well-established varieties to use as a comparison. The bulbs were planted in early November, the narcissus twice their own depth and tulips three times their depth.
The bulbs had to withstand baking sun, high winds and torrential rain in spring.
Among the recommended daffodils were Narcissus ‘Lieke’ (Walkers Bulbs), which was the longest-lasting bloom, whose dainty flowers have a green eye and delicious scent. It bloomed for 45 days, producing three stems from each bulb and three flowers on each stem from April to May, the 45cm stems staying upright despite heavy downpours.
Other daffodil winners included the dwarf ‘Sweet Love’ (Peter Nyssen; Unwins), which produced the best scent, while the small, nodding, cream flowers with a yellow centre shed the rain with ease, and ‘Swoop’ (De Jaeger), another pint-sized type which produced the most flowers of all the varieties. From 23 bulbs, more than 80 stems were produced, with swept-back yellow petals and nodding heads, perfect for naturalising around trees and woodland.
Many of the new tulips trialled also gave an excellent display, including Tulipa ‘Dior’ (HW Hyde & Son), which began to flower early, in April, producing several large double flowers in a luxurious shade of pink at the top of each stem.
If you’re looking for unusual, the tulip ‘Green Star’ (Sarah Raven) may suit you, with its slender, elegant green flowers with cream tips held on long straight stems, daring enough to catch the eye but without jarring. They were grown in pots with other tulips and found to be great companions for pinks, whites, purples and striped varieties, flowering in May and reaching a height of 45cm.
Other stars of the show included T. ‘Black Jack’ (Peter Nyssen), one of the darkest varieties with blooms with a velvety sheen which flowered earlier than old favourite ‘Queen of Night’ and persisted for five weeks. They have long straight stems good for cutting and combine well with white and pink tulips.
Those who want their tulips to withstand pounding rain should plump for T. ‘La Belle Epoque’, whose fully double apricot flowers, reminiscent of a peony, continued flowering through the rain.
The best new parrot tulip was ‘Irene Parrot’ (Peter Nyssen), bred from the popular ‘Prinses Irene’, and has mid-sized orange flowers that are frilled, cut and flamed to give an exotic look. Unlike other parrot tulips, it didn’t flop under the weight of heavy rain during the trial and continued to flower for 31 days.
Stocks of new varieties of bulb can be limited so order them now.
Full details of the trial are in the September issue of Which? Gardening. Sign up to Which? for a one-month trial for £1. For more information, visit www.which.co.uk/signup