Make a Bulb Lasagne


Tulipa 'Queen of the Night': image courtesy of Tom Jutte

As summer and early autumn blooms begin to fade, Thomas Broom, Petersham Nurseries’ Horticultural Manager, shows us how to refresh our pots and planters to give interest through till spring.

Cabbage+Chic front reCyclamen, heather, pansies and ivy are the usual choices for autumn and winter planters, but there are so many more plants available! Why not pick ones which will thrive in containers for continued interest until spring, and which can later be transferred into your borders and beds to give a seasonal display for years to come.

Spring-flowering bulbs can also be added, so you can extend the lifespan of your display to cover not two, but three seasons of flowering in one planting. A useful technique for this is the ‘Bulb Lasagne’; in simple terms, this consists of three to four layers of spring flowering bulbs in a container, with a layer of autumn/ winter flowering plants.

Occasionally, some plants may need to be replaced, due to weather conditions – but generally, most of our recommended plants should be hardy enough to withstand winter temperatures.

Our model ‘Bulb Lasagne’ this year, comes in the form of a planted vintage zinc bath, using a lavender, pink and purple colour scheme with layers of tulips, hyacinths and crocus.

Things you’ll need:


1 x Vinca minor ‘Atropurpurea’

3 x Purple ornamental cabbage (Brassica hybrid)

5 x Purple sage

3 x Rosemary ‘Tuscan Blue’ or trailing variety

5 x Viola in 2 litre pots, split in order to fill any gaps around the container

3 x Calluna vulgaris (no ericaceous compost required)

15 x Tulipa ‘Queen of the Night’ (May flowering)

9 x Hyacinth ‘Purple Sensation’ (Spring flowering)

27 x Crocus ‘Flower Record’


1 x Zinc bath or large low container

A generous layer of broken terracotta or horticultural grit for drainage

1 x 56 litre bag of organic compost

Autumn container plants

Crocus ‘Flower Record’ (MeninBlack), Calluna vulgaris (Thomas), Vinca minor ‘Atropurpurea’ (Anne Tanne)


  1. Cabbage+Chic ps reBegin by layering the base of the container with a 2/3” layer of broken terracotta or horticultural grit. Be mindful not to block the drainage holes and layer the broken terracotta downwards, so that water can drain from the container freely.
  2. Add the first layer of compost (approximately 8 inches – depending upon the size of the container).
  3. For the layer of tulips, line the bottom of the container with tulip bulbs, approximately 3 inches apart.
  4. Add another layer of compost, approximately 5 inches, creating a slight mound of compost in the centre of the container, to add height to the planting.
  5. Arrange the ornamental cabbage, sage, rosemary, Calluna and Violas in the container, putting the trailing plants like the Vinca at the edges of the container.
  6. Backfill with compost, so that the entire root balls of the plants are covered. Do not overfill the container with compost. The soil should be ¾” below the rim.
  7. Next plant the hyacinth bulbs 3 inches deep, evenly amongst the plants, or in groups of 2 or 3 if preferred.
  8. The crocus bulbs can then be peppered throughout the container, or around the edges, planted 1 inch deep into the compost.
  9. If any of the plants diminish during colder periods (for example, Brassicas and Calluna), these can be replaced with other later-flowering alternatives, such as Skimmia, Primulas or even potted, flowering bulbs.
  10. Ensure that the violas are deadheaded regularly and that the container is on feet or bricks, so that water can drain away freely.
  11. In periods of dry weather, make sure the container is adequately watered.




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