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f you don’t read the daily news­pa­pers you might not re­alise it is bulb-plant­ing time again, be­cause for the last few weeks we have been en­ticed to buy bulbs of all sorts, by full-page colour ad­verts – nearly every day.

You may in­tend to use bulbs for your spring bed­ding schemes in beds, bor­ders, tubs and troughs.

On the other hand, you may have a mind to “nat­u­ralise” some in bor­ders or in grassed ar­eas. If you were ever in doubt, let me sug­gest this is def­i­nitely the time to roll your sleeves up and get crack­ing.

To di­gress slightly, and think­ing back to last spring, some peo­ple com­mented on the fact there was a sig­nif­i­cant over­lap in the flow­er­ing time of daf­fodils and tulips.

It was gen­er­ally agreed this was due to the weather pat­terns – early sun­shine to speed up growth fol­lowed by a week or two of cold, wet weather to slow down devel­op­ment.

Whether that’s right or wrong is no longer rel­e­vant, the ques­tion is will it hap­pen again, and is it go­ing to be a more reg­u­lar pat­tern be­cause of cli­mate change?

I raise the point for a rea­son. If you are try­ing to cre­ate a plant­ing scheme for spring dis­play, the favourite ground cover plants are wall­flower, polyan­thus, pan­sies and vi­o­las.

Some may flower spo­rad­i­cally over the win­ter months, but the “blaze of colour” is an­tic­i­pated to be at its best in late April and all of May, to then be re­placed with sum­mer flow­er­ing selec­tions.

What­ever the ground cover, in my view the best bulb sub­ject to in­ter­plant is the tulip. Some col­leagues may ar­gue that daf­fodils are also suit­able, but I dis­agree, and my opin­ion was formed in the 1950s.

As some of you will know, my dad was a pub­lic parks man, end­ing his ca­reer as su­per­in­ten­dent of parks and open spa­ces in He­lens­burgh and district.

He was a mas­ter at choos­ing bed­ding scheme com­bi­na­tions. From early win­ter, there was a huge draw­ing board in his of­fice as he planned every bed, every colour scheme for sum­mer dis­plays.

Like­wise, he planned the spring bed­ding, start­ing about Easter for the fol­low­ing year and never once did I see him use daf­fodils in the mix for for­mal spring bed­ding. Why? Be­cause he reck­oned the daffs would be go­ing over be­fore the wall­flower, etc., were at their best. Tulips, on the other hand, are so ver­sa­tile in size, shape, colour and flow­er­ing time. They were his favourites, and mine too.

Con­versely, I would not choose to nat­u­ralise tulips, though I ac­cept that some of the alpine types will thrive per­fectly well in a rock gar­den set­ting.

By nat­u­ral­is­ing, I think we all un­der­stand that means plant­ing in ar­eas that are not cul­ti­vated reg­u­larly, like lawns and nat­u­ral grassy ar­eas that are al­lowed to grow wild.

The cru­cial point to stress re­lates to the flow­er­ing time of the bulbs AND the pe­riod af­ter flow­er­ing when they must be left in­tact to Spring flow­ers grow­ing in a ‘nat­u­ralised’ area fin­ish their an­nual growth cy­cle. Apart from daf­fodils, cro­cus, snow­drop, scilla and frit­il­laria are among the most favourite kinds for this pur­pose.

Just last week, wear­ing my Ro­tary hat, with col­leagues and lo­cal school­child­ren, we were plant­ing cro­cus corms in amenity grass ar­eas around In­verurie – like the grounds of the lo­cal hos­pi­tal – to mark World Po­lio Day.

Ro­tary In­ter­na­tional, with the Bill Gates Foun­da­tion, has been in­stru­men­tal in all but abol­ish­ing po­lio from planet. We are nearly there.

We are plant­ing cro­cuses and they will all be pur­ple flow­ered. Why, did I hear you ask? An­swer – when chil­dren are im­mu­nised, they stick a fin­ger in pur­ple dye to in­di­cate they have been treated, sav­ing a lot of pa­per­work!

Back to my point, you may re­mem­ber we fea­tured this el­e­ment on a Beech­grove pro­gramme – if you choose to plant bulbs in part of your lawn, plant in patches, and at mow­ing time, un­til the bulb leaves die nat­u­rally, mow round the patches, leav­ing lit­tle is­lands of un­cut grass. It looks very at­trac­tive.

When the bulb leaves have with­ered, raise the height of cut on the mower for a time or two to tidy th­ese ar­eas. Don’t, for good­ness sake, whack it down in a oner, be­cause then you will be left with un­sightly greeny yel­low patches.

Fi­nal thought be­fore I get back to emp­ty­ing tubs. Do I re­move all the soil/com­post from th­ese con­tain­ers? No, I don’t; the tubs will be topped up with fresh pot­ting soil and thor­oughly mixed through the ex­ist­ing stuff. What about fer­tiliser?

There will be enough in the new com­post to last un­til late Fe­bru­ary/early March, when I will sprin­kle and lightly fork in some gen­eral fer­tiliser.

The sun is out, but for how long? Snow­drops are a fa­mil­iar sight dur­ing early spring

BLOOM­ING SPEC­TAC­U­LAR: A blaze of multi-coloured spring flow­ers at the Keuken­hof gar­den in the Nether­lands

A gar­den area filled with cro­cuses

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