Get those bulbs in

Start plant­ing now to en­sure a colour­ful flo­ral dis­play in the spring, say the ex­perts at Monk­ton Elm Gar­den Cen­tre

Somerset Life - - GARDENING -

Bulbs are one of the cheap­est ways of fill­ing your gar­den with colour. Plant some spring flow­er­ing va­ri­eties now and you will be re­warded with a dis­play last­ing weeks. There will still be a good choice avail­able in gar­den cen­tres.

Jan­uary sees the first snow­drops mak­ing their ten­ta­tive way through the soil, to­gether with tiny win­ter aconites, their dar­ling bright yel­low flow­ers sur­rounded by a ruff of green leaves. They are swiftly fol­lowed by early nar­cissi, such as ‘Fe­bru­ary Gold’, a Nar­cis­sus cy­clamineus. Like cy­cla­men, the petals are swept back. It’s been around a long time, for good rea­son. It nat­u­ralises well and is not too tall, around 30cm, so it won’t be spoiled in poor weather.

Early spring and the gar­den re­ally gets go­ing. As plants be­gin to wake up from their win­ter dor­mancy, the fresh fo­liage en­hances bulb dis­plays per­fectly.

At the front of the bor­der, minia­ture iris such as ‘Kather­ine Hodgkin’ ap­pear, then cro­cus; small species first (try Cro­cus sieberi ‘Tri­colour’ – a pretty lilac and apri­cot colour) fol­lowed by the gi­ant

Dutch va­ri­eties. Anemone blanda, the wind flower, car­pets the ground with blue pink and white amongst de­cid­u­ous trees. Daf­fodils and nar­cissi are at their best now. If you fancy a tra­di­tional yel­low daf­fodil, go for ‘Dutch Master’ which reaches around 45cm.

Tulips also be­gin in March, al­though gen­er­ally they tend to be April/May flow­er­ers. Plant in groups of at least six or in drifts through herba­ceous peren­ni­als, for a spec­tac­u­lar dis­play. A favourite is ‘Queen of Night’ – an al­most black flower held on tall but strong stems. It looks in­cred­i­ble paired with a bright or­ange tulip such as ‘Or­ange Princess’.

Many bulbs like sun and pre­fer good drainage to per­form at their best, and this can be achieved by adding hor­ti­cul­tural grit to the bot­tom of the plant­ing hole. Plant deeply; three to four times the depth of the bulb will give best re­sults, and also de­ter squir­rels. They have a vo­ra­cious ap­petite for tulips and cro­cus, but will also dis­turb nar­cis­sus, al­though they won’t eat them.

Plant­ing spring flow­er­ing bulbs now is ideal, but de­lay tulip plant­ing un­til next month as cold soil de­ters virus and dis­ease that they can be sus­cep­ti­ble to. Don’t for­get to la­bel as it’s easy to for­get where they are. We rec­om­mend wooden la­bels as they are less con­spic­u­ous.

If you have cho­sen spe­cial, un­usual bulbs, pot them up in ter­ra­cotta pots in gritty com­post and keep close to the house so you can ap­pre­ci­ate their beauty up close and per­sonal.

To pro­mote flow­er­ing next year, feed bulbs with a high potash food (tomato food is per­fect) from flow­er­ing un­til the leaves die back nat­u­rally.

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