Dixter Tulips

Where to buy bulbs: our list of the best suppliers

If you're looking to buy bulbs online or want to to visit a garden nursery in the UK to buy your bulbs for the year ahead, here is a selection of some of the best bulb suppliers both in the UK and Europe offering a good choice of spring bulbs for autumn planting.

Autumn is the best time to plant spring flowering bulbs. It helps to plan ahead, so you have your selection of bulbs ordered and delivered in time for planting. There are lots of wonderful nurseries both in the UK and in Europe who have an amazing range of bulbs to buy online and in store. If you’re looking to buy bulbs and need advice on planting, it might be worth visiting a garden nursery and talking to the staff so you can choose the right bulbs for your garden situation. This list includes many award-winning and specialist nurseries and if you can visit, it’s worth it to see the amazing array of bulbs on offer.

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Avon Bulbs

The impressive Avon Bulbs stand at RHS Malvern Spring Show.
The impressive Avon Bulbs stand at RHS Malvern Spring Show.

If Avon Bulbs puts on a display at a garden show it’s worth allowing yourself a decent amount of time to look at everything it has got on offer. Award-winner time and again, Avon Bulbs’ range includes the expected tulips and daffodils and other treats, including Tulipa ‘Armani’, a good substitute for Tulipa ‘Abu Hassan’, currently in short supply. Tel 01460 242177, avonbulbs.co.uk

Bloms Bulbs

The winner of 67 Gold Medals for its cut tulip displays at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Good range of species tulips, which naturalise well and can also be left in the ground from year to year. Bloms also has display gardens at Pashley Manor in Sussex, Constable Burton in North Yorkshire, Chenies Manor in Hertfordshire and Glenarm Castle in Northern Ireland. Tel 01234 709099, blomsbulbs.com

Broadleigh Bulbs

A beautiful sight - Broadleigh Bulb's Agapanthus collection growing in the nursery fields.
A beautiful sight – Broadleigh Bulb’s Agapanthus collection growing in the nursery fields.

Headed by expert Christine Skelmersdale, this is the place to come if you are looking for small-flowering bulbs – narcissus in particular, as Broadleigh Bulbs holds a National Collection of miniature daffodils. Also of note are the dwarf bearded iris. A display garden at the nursery in Somerset is open throughout the year, and you can find useful advice on the website. Tel 01823 286231, broadleighbulbs.co.uk

Cambo

Renowned for its snowdrops, Cambo, located in Fife, Scotland, has been voted as Best Supplier of Bulbs ‘in the green’ by Which? Gardening. You’ll need to wait until just after flowering in spring for the clumps of snowdrops to be dug up from the Cambo Estate’s woodland and be offered for sale. However, you can order ‘damp packed’ snowdrops now for autumn planting. Tel 01333 450054, cambosnowdrops.com

De Jager

An established supplier for 150 years, the extensive collection includes some more unusual choices, such as Bellevalia, (similar to muscari, from the Hyacinthaceae family), outdoor amaryllis and English bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta. Tel 01622 840229, dejager.co.uk

Great Dixter

Dixter Tulips

The nursery at the garden sells a small selection of bulbs for autumn planting. These have been supplied by other trusted bulb companies but you can be assured that the choices here will be good ones and thoroughly proven in their garden worthiness by the Dixter gardeners. You’ll find the best choice at the Great Dixter Autumn Plant Fair, which this year (2018) is on 6-7 October. Tel 01797 254044, greatdixter.co.uk

Hare Spring Cottage Plants

Run by expert Stella Exley, Hare Spring holds the National Collection of Camassia and as such has an excellent supply of camassia cultivars for sale as bulbs from the popular Camassia ‘Blue Heaven’ with its rich lavender-blue flowers to a rare pale-pink cultivar. Tel 07792 376805, harespringcottageplants.co.uk

Jacques Amand

La Belle Epoque
Tulipa ‘La Belle Epoque’ is one of many, many beautiful bulbs on offer from Jacques Amand

Large selection of autumn-planted bulbs, especially narcissus and tulips. The company was established as a flower shop on London’s Strand by Dutchman Jean Jacques Amand in 1927. This year’s display at Chelsea won the company its 32nd gold medal from the RHS. Gardens Illustrated readers can enjoy a 20 per cent discount on selected bulbs from Jacques Amand this month, see page 103 for details. Tel 020 8420 7110, jacquesamandintl.com

J Parker’s

You’ll find a reliable selection with lots of bulbs and plenty of offers including the new Iris ‘Katherine’s Gold’ in pale creamy yellow, one of the plants Dan Pearson is trialling in his own garden. There’s also a large wholesale selection for bulk buying. Tel 0161 848 1100, jparkers.co.uk

Nijssen Bulbs

Established Dutch bulb company with a particular focus on the sought-after Rembrandt tulips, and other rarities such as the fragrant ‘Dom Pedro’. It also has a good range of alliums and historic narcissus.Tel +31 (0)23 547 1056, nijssentuin.nl

Peter Nyssen

This display by Peter Nyssen includes Muscari 'Blue Spike', Narcissus 'Mount Hood' and Tulip 'Yellow Flight'.
This display by Peter Nyssen includes Muscari ‘Blue Spike’, Narcissus ‘Mount Hood’ and Tulipa ‘Yellow Flight’.

Peter Nyssen is the only major bulb company to have replaced all its plastic packaging with a fully compostable and biodegradable alternative. This accounts for 1,500kg less single-use plastic packing going into our environment. The website has a good bulb category selection feature that helps to pinpoint choices to suit your garden. In its ‘New & Special’ section Dutch Iris ‘Autumn Princess’ stands out as interesting choice. Tel 0161 747 4000, peternyssen.com

Pottertons

An expert in dwarf bulb cultivars. While some species are better suited to the expert grower able to provide specific conditions, there’s plenty for the general enthusiast too and the chance to really extend your range of spring-interest flowers. Tel 01472 851714, pottertons.co.uk

Sarah Raven

The Venetian Tulip Collection from Sarah Raven is made up of Tulipa 'National Velvet', T. 'Havran' and T. 'Prinses Irene'.
The Venetian Tulip Collection from Sarah Raven is made up of Tulipa ‘National Velvet’, T. ‘Havran’ and T. ‘Prinses Irene’.

Well known for her carefully chosen selection of plants including bulbs – all of which will have been grown and tested in her garden at Perch Hill, Sarah’s collections are increasingly popular and reflect the current trend in cut flowers and floristry. Her new Honey and Smoke Tulip Collection is described as ‘mauve, apricot and ochre, the 1970s meets 2018-19’. Tel 0345 092 0283, sarahraven.co.uk

Scamps Daffodils

This multi award-winning, family business based in Cornwall, is best known for its daffodils – although it also offers other bulbs. Expert and owner Ron Scamp has daffodils for sale in all 13 of the RHS divisions along with descriptions of what distinguishes each of those divisions and an interesting selection of historic examples. Tel 07826 067175, qualitydaffodils.com

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Further information

This year’s hot, dry summer has meant that crop harvests for bulbs, which need the moisture to bulk up, are much lower than anticipated for some choices – or indeed not available at all for some cultivars. You may also notice that bulb size in general seems a little smaller this year. All companies are working hard to provide continuity of supply but are urging customers to get orders in early, so be sure to order your bulbs as soon as possible.