Spring bulbs give an excellent return on their investment

In many aspects of life, if you miss your chance then it can be rectified at a later date — if you don’t get something done this month then you can just do it next month.

In the garden, however,you are working with nature and while she will give you the opportunity to do jobs at the right time, should you miss the chance then you will have to wait til the same window next year. Time will march on relentlessly and unforgivingly. Gardeners always have to think ahead, always thinking of the next season and often years down the road.

When deciding on a tree for your garden the effects of that decision will still be felt for years to come; many trees will survive for hundreds of years. Most of our other decisions are less long lasting. If next year’s summer bedding display doesn’t work then that’s no problem as it will be gone with the onset of the first frosts. This autumn is when we need to think of next spring and that most wonderful season in the garden, bulb planting time.

I wrote recently about Alliums and planting them out earlier this month amongst some evergreen perennials and grasses. And with some thought and good choices spring bulbs will give a display right through from December to January to June.

Galanthus nivalis, better known to you and I as snowdrops will poke their delicate little heads through frozen ground, often snow covered and hard as rock from the first week in January. There are many different varieties available, with some individual plants selling for hundreds of euros between collectors. Unless you are intent on becoming, or have already become a snowdrop aficionado, then simply plump for the common snowdrop which, far from costing in the hundreds of euro, will cost cents.

The Dutch Iris will also flower early, during February, and though their blooms are only at their best for a short period, these little works of art are truly worth it for the display they give. Do keep an eye out for Iris ‘Katherine Hodgkin’ if you want something a bit special and a bit different, a pale blue reminiscent of the blue sky on a good early spring day.

The earliest of the daffodils to flower is probably Narcissus ‘Rijnvelds Early Sensation’ which could even make an appearance by Christmas if conditions are correct. ‘Hawera’, ‘February Gold’ and ‘Tete a Tete’ are all delightful dwarf forms relatively early flowering and ideal for growing in pots.‘Minnow’, ‘Pheasants Eye’ and ‘Jonquilla’ are three strongly scented forms.

And let me use this opportunity to clear up a common confusion — narcissus is the name of this genus, some of which are referred to by the common name daffodil. Daffodils to me really symbolise the start of the oncoming gardening season — the yellow trumpet heralding the warming temperatures and new growth. It’s no accident that it is the symbol of cancer charities around the world.

And as to tulips, such was their importance to the world economy, they were once used as a currency. There are now thousands of varieties available, again for cents. Whether you simply want the classic display of yellow and red Darwin tulips or you fancy the more ornate forms, some of which are like stained glass cups, there will be a tulip to suit.

This is where personal choice and trend come to the fore. Some years I will stick to the one colour scheme and others I will have every colour in the spectrum represented. If you have not tried the more unusual varieties, then let me urge you to keep an eye out for, ‘Angelique’, a truly special pink flower with many ruffled petals. Try too, ‘Flaming Spring Green’ which like ‘Spring Green’ has beautiful green markings through the white flowers but with the added drama of a flash of red, a real showman for the spring garden.

Staggering the planting time of the bulbs will lead to a longer flowering period in the spring instead of all the flowers appearing in one week. If you leave weekly intervals, you will enjoy the blooms opening over a similar period of weeks next year. It seems strange that something that is so beautiful and will give such pleasure in bloom costs mere cents — that a packet of ten or 20 tulips can cost only a couple of euro, and strange too that coming to the end of the gardening year we are thinking of the beginning of next year’s season — but that’s life in the garden, always thinking ahead.

BLOWN AWAY

When deciding upon garden furniture for your outdoor room, a number of things will influence your decision — colour, material, size and not least, price.

The old adage of ‘buy cheap buy often’ is never more true than when it comes to garden furniture, as cheap poorly-made sets stand no chance of surviving outside in this country — with all that our climate has to throw at them.

Whatever furniture you have outside only the most committed, fool hardy or simply foolish of us will continue to use it over the next few months, as the temperatures drop below freezing and the wind and rain makes its presence felt strongly. So do look now at either covering your dining set, chairs, etc, or move the lot inside for the winter.

Stone, teak and many of the newer ranges of furniture will be okay outside and just need a good scrub next spring, but for all others take action now to ensure a long life — and to ensure your furniture doesn’t end up three miles away.

This is particularly important for trampolines, which, even if tied down, will blow away in high winds and present a real danger to person and property. So do take action now.


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