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What to see at Spring Spectacular 2023

Date: 01 March 2023

Author: Claire Woods

Our gardeners' highlights from half a million blooms

Bulbs, corms and tubers grow and flower all year round, but most people associate them with spring. At Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, the first of our blooms appear in January. This year though, we planted many more bulbs – over half a million!

During a busy autumn 2022, the Gardens team at Hillsborough hand-planted 19,000 bulbs and machine-planted over 665 metres square. This included 55 new different varieties and over 50 Northern Ireland-bred daffodils. 

In spring 2023, all of this hard work will come to fruition as these bulbs start to bloom in beautiful waves of colour for our Spring Spectacular.

Here, Claire Woods, Gardens Manager at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, explains the varieties to look out for and how to create a Spring Spectacular in your own outdoor space.


While our Spring Spectacular runs from 04 March to 08 May, there are highlights to see from the early months of 2023.

All of our newly planted bulbs are labelled so if you see something you like, make a note of it!

February to May

A riot of spring colour

In February the first of the early daffodil 'Jet Fire' create splashes of bright yellow. As the season progresses, the naturalised bulbs start to bloom.

The new mixes planted this year include:

  • Three Musketeers mix: flowers from February to April starting with yellow crocus, followed by blue chionodoxa, and then the scented daffodil Narcissus 'Thalia'.
  • The Daffodil mix, flowing from February to May on Yew Tree Walk includes a mix of many varieties and colours of daffodils.
  • The Double Pleasure mix is planted near the Pinetum. It flowers from February to April, and is a mix of early yellow and late flowering white dwarf narcissus.
  • The Bee Surprise mix will be ready to welcome you as you drive into the gardens from February to June. It includes crocus, camassia, daffodils, tulips and scilla. It changes colour during the season from blue and yellow, to red and yellow finally to blue again.


Daffodils, tulips… and some striking surprises

Tulips have been planted in beds and pots, and daffodils in beds. We’ve also planted large areas in the grass – we hope these will naturalise and give us wonderful displays every spring for many years.

And look out for the fritillarias in the Granville Garden and Walled Garden.

The stately yellow Fritillaria imperalis 'Lutea' add colour to the beds whilst one of the tallest cultivars, Fritillaria persica are in the beds on the west wall of the Walled Garden. With their spikes that carry up to 30 pendulous dark purple bell-shaped flowers, they are striking and beautiful in equal measure.

In the meadow area below the Friends Burial Ground, hundreds of the delicate Fritillaria meleagris, the snake's head fritillary, nod their heads in the grass.

Red and purple Tulip Yoko's Dream in Walled Garden.


Whether you have a large garden to naturalise bulbs, or only a room for a few pots on a balcony, it’s possible to grow some bulbs.

If you have only room for one pot, you can layer your bulbs starting with late tulips at the bottom. Add mid-season daffodils, and top with early crocus and or hyacinths. This 'lasagne pot' of bulbs will flower from March to May.

Well-drained drier areas are suitable for tulips whilst daffodils will thrive in grass and areas of heavier soil. This does need to be well-drained soil, as both like full sun. If you have areas of shade, then early bulbs such as snowdrops, chinodoia and scilla, bluebells, early tulips and miniature daffodils will do best.

Most bulbs are best ordered in early summer and planted in autumn. The exceptions are snowdrops and bluebells, which do not grow easily from dried bulbs. These are best lifted and split after flowering in late spring, which is called 'planting in the green'.

Tag us in your Spring Spectacular photos

Whether you're visiting our Spring Spectacular at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, or creating one of your own, tag us in your photos on social media to show us how you're getting involved:

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