The gardens at Le Grys Farm are a haven for wildlife and a beautiful place to relax and enjoy the view. An owl swoops low over the fields, hares race across the farm track and on a clear night, the vast Norfolk sky shimmers with stars. Painted by artists; studied by historians; and loved by anyone who treasures wildlife, Le Grys Farm is a very special place indeed.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Designing with Bulbs

Along the roadside by Le Grys Farm, primroses nestle in grassy banks and quietly proclaim the arrival of spring. They seed themselves freely along the lanes and have made a home in the Farmhouse Garden. 

Narcissus 'Bestseller' in Le Grys Farmhouse Garden

I love to see lawns studded with flowers, especially in spring. Every year I add a few more bulbs to the collection. Last autumn it was the turn of Fritillaria meleagris, which I planted in the orchard. The flowers are now beginning to emerge through the grass under the apple trees, compelling me to amble down to the orchard to drink coffee and drool over their daintiness instead of getting on with all the things I am supposed to be doing.

Fritillaria meleagris

The lawn bulb display starts with snowdrops and Crocus tomassinianus and continues through until late spring when English bluebells flower in the grass under the trees in the Barn Garden. 

Crocus tommasinianus in the Farmhouse Garden

Snowdrops and bluebells spread at will, but elsewhere spring flowers are used to create a more choreographed effect. I am a massive fan of using bulbs to create a temporary structural element in a lawn. It seems to redesign the garden for a few weeks before the grass returns to its day job as a foil to vibrant planting in the borders and a sound base for a game of football, cricket or rounders. In the Farmhouse Garden, Narcissus 'Bestseller' is arranged to emphasise the curve of one lawn, whereas elsewhere it is used to lead the eye to the gate and out across the field to the horse chestnut tree.

Le Grys Farmhouse Garden

Of course, the downside of bulbs is that we should leave their foliage to die back naturally. I prefer to see bulb leaves in grass rather than the borders. I keep some areas of lawn free from bulbs and mow these as I enjoy the contrast between mown and uncut areas. This effect is heightened as there is sufficient space to pass a lawnmower between groups of bulbs, allowing me to mow a temporary path between them. 

Primroses on the roadside

Using early flowering bulbs means that the lawn reverts to normal long before I have grown tired of the bulb foliage; and placing spring bulbs in a small area rather than dotted across the grass gives the flowers greater impact and reduces the space required for the leaves once the flowers have faded. But why focus on the end of the spring bulb season now, when the best is yet to come? I had better grab a coffee and get on with the urgent business of fritillary-gazing.