These hardy bulbs produce jewel-like blooms in early spring
Few gardeners plant many of the 75 species of the wild dwarf tulip, yet they make charming plants for pots, fronts of borders and rock gardens, where they usually form clumps and sometimes even seed themselves. Some of these diminutive tulips, which hail from the Mediterranean region and east into Asia, have been developed by nurseries to yield selected forms and hybrids. Most are small and dainty, with starry flowers in bold and bright colours, opening in warm weather to greet the sun. Plant them with other small bulbs such as chionodoxa and scillas to grow through aubrieta, arabis, campanulas and other low plants that will help protect petals from mud splashes. Put bulbs in a sunny, welldrained area in clumps of five or more for the best effect, some 8cm (3in) apart and 10cm (4in) deep. In heavy, clay soils, fork in some grit to improve drainage and use your favourite slugcontrol method to prevent flowers being nibbled in spring. There’s no need to lift bulbs every summer, just leave them to increase naturally until they get too crowded. A little high-potash fertiliser in spring will boost growth, then let them die down naturally after flowering.