If – like us – you spend a large part of the weekend looking for inspiration and Garden ideas, we have the perfect place for you.
Morton Hall – especially visited in spring – is a spring garden that inspires with color. The early bulb and synchronized tulip display is extraordinary with a brilliance of thousands of flowers. It is all due to the months of careful planning and planting by owner Anne Olivieri.
Tulips have retained an appeal since the heady days of tulip mania in 17th century Holland. “They have not lost their power over people,” explains Anne, whose vibrant and intricate 6,000-strong exhibit draws visitors to the annual Tulip Festival in the gardens of her Worcestershire home.
Almost 15 years ago with the help of the garden designer Charles Chesshire, Anne began converting the eight acres of parkland into seven different, but connected, seasonal gardens.
Here she shares how this spring garden inspires with color …
1. Introduce early bulbs and flowering trees to a spring garden
“When my husband René and I visited the property in spring 2007, the park landscape and the meadow were full of naturalized fritillaries and daffodils,” says Anne.
She introduced Snowdrops, Scilla and Camassias to intensify the presentation and extend the season. Clouds of Japanese flowering cherries complemented the delicate planting and softened the skyline of majestic manor trees.
South of the curved driveway, shielded by trees, are two new gardens. A Japanese strolling garden, planted with blooming cherries, magnolias, and tree peonies, includes reflective pools and a tea house. Behind it is the rockery, the huge stone staircase of which is covered with forest vegetation.
Find more Ideas for flower beds in our special feature.
2. Plant tulips in a spring garden border
In a sunny bed, create enough space for tulips to flow between existing perennials and herbaceous plants. “Tulips are versatile and scalable,” says Anne. “Anyone can grow them, but density is crucial.” To do this, arrange the bulbs in their planting positions in loosely grouped strings of five to six and repeat them. Mix a few onions at the level transitions, avoiding straight lines and isolated groups.
Plant 5 cm deep with a trowel and cover from back to front, plant high to short. Planting flatly makes it easier to lift later. Dusted planting area with hot chilli powder, two tablespoons per square meter, an effective squirrel deterrent that is not harmful to birds. If necessary, reapply until shoots appear. Mulch with wood bark or compost to improve drainage.
After flowering, lift and compost all of the tulips. Big, healthy, fresh bulbs produce the best blooms.
3. Create a lush backdrop
South Garden’s geometry is softened by lush green borders overgrown with box-shaped spheres and surrounded by willow trees bearing soaring peonies and roses. Tulips flood and fill the gaps, weave into the perennial shrubs and out to the lower fountain terrace. The effect is artistic and the planting plan itself resembles an impressionist painting.
Anne explains the complicated design process. “The coordinates of the permanent plantings in the garden are recorded on a map. I overlay this with a matrix of over 4,000 tulips and use 15 different varieties. Another symbol denotes its color, height and shape. ‘
Check out our Garden edging ideas for more inspiration.
4 group pots for an easy spring garden presentation
In the adjacent kitchen garden, in front of the food, the border beds and the grouped terracotta pots are bursting with color. They follow the path of the sun; a spectacular fusion of sunrise colors washes the eastern beds, which are hit by a striking bonfire of sunset flames in the west. ‘
The arrangements are simpler than in the South Garden matrix, 1,500 onions with fewer varieties, but the color intensity compensates for the lower density, ”says Anne.
5 Arrange in classic height order
Tulips are arranged systematically in the classic order of heights, “short at the front, higher at the back, with a subtle mixture of the alternating heights that create movement and avoid cumbersome, soldier-like rows”.
The planting of the spring garden is meticulously staged, but in the past the effect was “ruined by replacement or rogue bulbs”. A partnership with Bloms Bulbs solved such problems and resulted in the first annual Tulip Festival in 2019.
See: Garden jobs for May – what to do, sow seeds and plant flowers
Anne plans the gardens, while Bloms offers a selection of “weird and wonderful” tulips for the cut garden and armsfuls of cut flowers for the orangery. “It is so important to see tulips in person,” enthuses Anne and is pleased to be able to share her finely tuned kaleidoscope in wonderful colors with the visitors.
Interview by Jacky Hobbs