The firework flower that needs no introduction. If you were to describe to an alien these spheres of purple sprinklings bobbing through an early-summer planting, that alien would give you a quizzical look. How does the allium work? How does it look just SO GOOD?
Its feel good colour-range of mauve, violet, blue, purple and lilac through pink to white might have something to do with it; whichever way you slice it (not literally), the allium's inexplicable charms are guaranteed to elicit oohs and aahs from everyone.
Darling of the Golden Age
When it arrived from the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century, the tulip took Western Europe by storm, driving people to all sorts of lengths in their anguish and desperation to collect the prize specimens. Looking at its flower today, it isn’t hard to see how it created such a frenzy.
Elegant and exotic, sturdy yet delicate, different colourways and combinations create an ever-changing mood in the garden as the blooms reveal their magic. If you can bring yourself to cut a few, they continue to delight in vases, with their swan-neck stems bowing and curving sculpturally with no assistance from us.
You may not have heard of the camassia, but once seen, never forgotten. Giant bluebellesque flowers sparkle in mesmerising shades of blues, violets and white.
Some can be left to naturalise in a dappled-shade glade, looking perfectly at home in a woodland planting; we love to use them to create a shimmer of light in a spring border.
She wore her yellow sun-bonnet, she wore her greenest gown, she turned to the south wind and curtsied up and down
'But I don't like yellow'. You don't have to like yellow: daffodils come in whites and creams, and anyway we may even be able to persuade you that not all yellows are equal. The primrose yellow of Spring is an uplifting ode to that really good bit of the year where the plants starts to grow, the leaves start to show and the birds like to sing like billy-oh. And yellow, yellow - proper primary building block yellow? Leave it to us.
The emperor's fritillary
Who knows where to start with describing the most regal of fritillaries? A shock of leaves form a great exclamation mark above a cluster of orange or yellow hoods, leading the observer to wonder at how anything so complicated could emerge from such an unassuming, if rather large, beige bulb. And how something so complicated could look just so at home amongst other blooms with which you’d expect it to make an enormous, jarring, clanging clash. A stand-out attention-seeker, the Crown imperial is a surprising star of the colour firmament
And the crocus-bed is a quivering moon of fire
Girdled round with the belt of an amethyst ring
Who could fail to be moved by the first pops of colour in late winter and very early spring, as the crocuses make their way out of the soil, tolerating snow and rain and generally looking cheery and simply happy to be here.
The range is vast in the spring with yellows, blues, whites and mauves all making happy feels. There are also a number of autumn-flowering crocuses, when these miraculous little goblets of colour parade proudly in pinker lilacs and soft blues.
National flower of Mexico
Pompom, cactus, dinnerplate, to name but a few: once you’ve taken a dip into the world of dahlias, we defy you to ever want to leave. Fabulous flowers that are spiky, spherical, enormous, not-so-enormous, with a range of colours that are simply asking to be welcomed into your bed, borders and pots. From sweetshop mixes through to satisfying monochromes, you’ll always be delighted by a dahlia.
Birth flower of August
It may come as a surprise that gladioli are high on our list of go-to bulbs.
The reputation of this elegant beauty has suffered at the hands of comedians and garage forecourts; we assure you that they are absolute stunners.
Tall sword spires of beautiful bells in every shade under the sun, the varieties we have in mind are nothing short of wondrous.
Excellent for cutting, as well as creating willowy streaks of colour in the border, you can ring the changes every year, going from quite demure to a truly proud statement of intent.
The lily white shall in love delight
Trumpets of colour in perfect pinks, other-worldly oranges and tasteful deep wine-red - and that’s just a hint of the colour-hit that these architectural beauties provide. Planted in pots or placed in the ground, they bring eyepoppingly structural splendour to a scheme. As elegant in a city courtyard as they are in a cluster of pots in the country, the lily is a wondrous thing. (And yes, we’ll advise you on that pesky lily beetle).
SNAKE’S HEAD FRITILLARIES
County flower of Oxfordshire
Yes you are right, fritillaries are butterflies. But they are also flowers, little nodding chequered cups of purple or white, with both the insect and plant taking their name from fritillus, the Latin for a chequered Roman dice box. You'll see them naturalised in meadows; they do like a damp-ish soil so this isn't one for your gravel garden, but in a pot or as a one-off at the very front of a border: perfection.