Competition judge and renowned plantsman Simon Rickard has found a winner amongst a mountain of breathtakingly beautiful bulb entries sent in last month.
Main Image: Lindy Saul's beautiful garden in Yandoit
The spring flood gates were well and truly open for our most popular competition so far, 'Beautiful Bulbs'. The images you sent in truly celebrated the advent of spring with swathes of blooming colour – from tiny crocus to sunny daffodils and exotic varieties of tulip. Our judge, renowned plantsman Simon Rickard, has now selected our winner for the loveliest use of bulbs in Victoria. Read on to learn who won and how Simon selected the best entrants according to how the bulbs in their gardens contribute something really special to their overall design.
The winner has been awarded with a $100 voucher generously donated by Tonkin's Bulbs.
To find out more about using bulbs successfully to complement other garden plants, don't miss the recording of our Instragram Live tour last month, A Walk in the Garden with Simon Rickard. You can also follow Simon's inspiring garden on Instagram @simon_rickard.
Well done to all the participants in the Beautiful Bulbs competition. I enjoyed judging your entries immensely.
Bulbs are a common gateway-drug for new gardeners, so it was great to see entries by total novices. That means we have a new cohort of future gardeners coming through, which is good news. Equally, it was great to see entries from gardeners with decades of experience. One of the nice things about bulbs is that they remain achievable as we become old and infirm, or downsize into smaller accommodation. Bulbs are truly plants for every stage of our gardening journey.
It was good to read about contestants’ motivations for growing bulbs, and criteria for selecting their favourite. Although, if you are anything like me, your favourite bulb can change on a weekly basis.
In addition to many varieties of much-loved tulips and daffodils, it was nice to see some unusual bulbs entered, too. Scilla peruviana and some of the Arum species were particularly well represented, as were several great South African bulbs, notably Veltheimia, Moraea, Ferraria, Scadoxus, Lachenalia and Babiana, as well as better-known Freesia.
There were a lot of close cropped photos of entrants’ favourite bulbs. They are indeed beautiful in splendid isolation, but what really impresses me is seeing bulbs used in some kind of context.
There were some beautiful pot displays used to set off garden seats, paved areas, steps and decks, colour matched to paint work or pots. Special mention here to Angela Crump and Jane Byrne.
Blue Star Hyacinths with an underplanting of detailed pansy faces in an old terracotta pot brighten up the courtyard table in Angela Crump's Melbourne garden.
Lachenalias or little soldiers, hyacinths, and hoop petticoat daffodils in Jane Byrne's garden in Sorrento.
There were some heartbreakingly beautiful vase displays, too. Putting a tiny posy together makes bulbs seem all the more precious than when viewed in mass plantings the size of football fields. Special mention here to Ann Ryan, Marg Campbell and Therese Talbot.
A bouquet of freesias, leucadendrons and some grape hyacinths for added colour, from Ann Ryan near Geelong
Spring pickings from Marg Campbell's Melbourne garden: blue muscari (grape hyacinth), white and yellow freesia, Narcissus papyraceus (Paperwhites), and pieris (Temple Bells)
Therese Talbot from Lauriston near Kyneton, shares a few blooms from her garden: bluebells, tulips, freesias, and a mix of narcissus
For me, however, the ultimate use of bulbs is in the broader garden context. I like to see evidence that the gardener has thought about how the bulbs can contribute something aesthetically to their overall design, and considered what species of bulbs will thrive in that particular position with those particular plant neighbours. I like to see an understanding that bulbs are fleeting, and best used accordingly: as a garnish rather than a main meal; as a walk-on cameo role rather than the main character. With that in mind, special mention here goes to Allan Gibson, Jenny Rusciano and Lorena Lopez Santana.
Allan Gibson from Hallam shares this image of the magnificent, orange brush of his Scadoxus puniceus, surrounded by various succulents which during winter grow to fill the gap left when the leaves die down.
Jenny Rusciano has underplanted her silver birches with hellebores and bulbs to bloom successively: the hellebores first, then bluebells and daffodils, followed by freesias and finally iris and tulips.
Lorena Lopez Santana from Warragul has mass planted tulips in her front yard, blending 'Purple Patch' and 'Coconut Ice' varieties.
And for the same reasons, my overall winner has to be Lindy Saul, who has used tulips as a seasonal highlight under an avenue of ornamental pears, to fill in the gap between the pear blossom, and the summer perennials which will cover the dying leaves of the tulips as they mature. This kind of layering is an important technique for ensuring successional colour in the garden. Well done, Lindy.
Our winner, Lindy Saul's 'Pear Walk' on her 13 acre property at Yandoit, near Daylesford. Lindy has used 400 tulips as a border behind stone edging to provide interest and colour in early spring before lavender, alliums and Salvia nemerosa that share the bed come into their own.
Once again, congratulations to all contestants, and thank you for having the courage and humility required to share your gardens. I salute you!