△ Photo of the team at Avon Bulbs courtesy of Neil Hepworth
Avon Bulbs Review
Value for money:
Avon Bulbs are a small, family-run nursery located in Somerset, England. They specialise in a wide range of bulbs and are regular RHS Chelsea Gold Medal winners, accruing 30 such trophies in 25 years.
They offer a catalogue and online mail-order service and were one of the few nurseries that continued to supply top-quality plants throughout the Covid-19 lockdown.
I have been impressed with the quality of their plants and their speed of delivery. I would recommend any serious gardener get on their mailing list.
At the beginning of lockdown, with all the local garden centres and nurseries closed, I went online to find mail-order suppliers to get my spring gardening started. Unfortunately, many had also closed due to Cover-19, but Avon Bulbs was one of the companies that came up trumps. I placed an order with them, and to my delight it arrived promptly several days later. Here is my order and what I paid (which, of course, may well have changed since):
- Nerine bowdenii Bianca Perla (9 bulbs) — £11.55
- Amarine Emanuelle (3 bulbs) — £9.80
- Ornithogalum nutans (3 pots) — £15.00
- Agapanthus Alan Street (3 pots) — £21.00
- Tritelia Rudy (9 pots) — £36.00
- Shipping — £4.95
I thought the prices were fair, but perhaps towards the high end of fair, being close to what you might expect to pay in a garden centre. The quality of the plants would be the deciding factor — which is always a concern when you can’t see before you buy. However, three months on, I am happy to report that all of the plants I purchased have performed exceptionally well.
Everything arrived neatly packed in a cardboard box on the 4th of April, with the potted plants wrapped in newspaper and rubber bands. The one litre plastic pots were sturdy and tall — ideal for bulbs — and each showed evidence of healthy growth.
Above is one of the Agapanthus plants, still wrapped, alongside one removed from its pot. You can see the healthy root growth (nice and congested which is what you want in an Agapanthus as it stimulates flower buds to form).
I potted up the Nerines and Amerines with the aim of growing these on in the greenhouse. They should flower in the Autumn if I treat them right. I potted the Agapanthus into larger pots too. Here they are in the protection of my greenhouse a few days later.
The Nerines sprouted pretty quickly. The Amarines took a lot longer, making me wonder if they were alive or not, but after more than a month they finally got going.
The Tritelia were planted amongst the mediterranean plants in my new dry-garden, while the Ornithogalum were planted in the shade of my Amalanchier.
here are some of the results:
Ornithogalum nutans (Mid-April)
The Star of Bethlehem is a demure grey-green flowering bulb somewhat like bluebells in its growth and height. Like many spring-flowering bulbs, soon after setting seed its leaves shrivel and it goes dormant for the summer, so I planted it where adjacent plants would cover the dying foliage after flowering.
This was taken soon after the first flowers opened. It continued to flower for several weeks, finally reaching more than twice this height.
Tritelia Rudy (Early June)
In the above photo you can see three clumps of the beautiful purple-white Tritelia Rudy which was planted in this bed among other drought tolerant plants including Euphorbia myrsinites, purple Sedum, Verbascum and Festuca glauca. Each of the pots from Avon bulbs produced five or six heads, with each head carrying a score of buds. These lovely airy flower heads float above the surrounding plants with the promise of providing a long season of flowers. Their foliage consists of thin strap-like leaves. I have regularly lifted these above the surrounding plants so that these bulbs can get the maximum sunlight. I want them to come back even stronger next year!
Agapanthus Alan Street (Late June)
This variety of Agapanthus was developed by Avon Bulbs themselves. It is said to be one of the darkest purple of all Agapanthus hybrids. Look how much it has grown in just three months! Plants this size would sell in a garden centre for well over £10 so the £7 purchase price seems good value now.
At the time of writing this post, the flowers have just started to break, revealing buds of a very dark purple. I am very pleased with this purchase.
The plants I have purchased from Avon bulbs have all performed very well so far (I will have to wait until the autumn to assess the Nerines and Amarines). Overall I have been very pleased with my purchase and grateful that they kept their business going in the early days of the lockdown when gardeners found themselves left high and dry.
I would recommend taking a close look at their website and consider signing up for their newsletter and mail-order catalogue. They supply bulbs seasonally, so the website is divided into Spring-Planting, Late-Summer-Planting and Autumn-Planting sections. They also sell seeds.