After the hottest and driest summers on record, I suspect your garden is suffering somewhat from such a hard season.
Lawns are parched, newly planted shrubs and tress are struggling and most bedding and container plants are already on their way out – it’s been quite a year!
We are already selling a lot of winter pansies, an indication that gardeners are beginning the Autumn planting earlier than usual this year.
Most containers and tubs were planted out in May, and they have had to endure four months of hot, dry weather.
Even with constant feeding, all that watering does take its toll on the plants , washing away most of the goodness in the compost. So if your baskets and containers are wilting, perhaps it’s a good time to get your pansies and primroses planted and established for the winter.
I’ll talk about winter bedding plants next month.
Now we’re into September, it’s bulb time!
What we need of course, is a few good downpours of rain to soften the ground. Once the earth has had to soak up that much needed moisture, bulb planting will be a far easier and more enjoyable pastime.
The first bulb everyone thinks of is probably the Daffodil.
The first sighting of a golden daffodil on a dark, rainy day in late February really does gladden the heart and make one believe that Spring is just around the corner.
For a traditional display of bright, gold trumpets go for “Dutch Master” “King Alfred” or “Golden Ducat”. These varieties are reliable and robust and will produce a mass of rich yellow flowers. Be bold and plant them in groups of a dozen or so – there’s nothing worse than a few single daffodils dotted nervously around a bed!
Don’t forget to plant the bulbs correctly – for daffodils cover the bulbs with twice its depth of soil.
A good quality daffodil bulb should be around 12cm, so dig down to around 25cm – I know it sounds like hard work – but if you plant too shallow the bulbs will not flower. To increase the flowering pop a handful of bonemeal in with each batch of bulbs, and if the ground is heavy and poorly drained, line the holes with some horticultural grit and sit the bulbs on it.
These varieties I mentioned are the traditional, tall species – all around 35cm high.
Narcissi however are the smaller relations of this family. “Little Gem” , “Minnow”, “Jetfire” and “Tete a Tete” are all multi-headed miniature bulbs – some only reaching 10cm high. These Narcissi are a superb choice for tubs , their tiny delicate heads make them ideal for containers and hanging baskets, and they look superb in a rockery or alpine garden.
Daffodils and Narcissi do like to be planted as early as possible , so do try to get them in this month while the soil is still warm and they can get their roots established before the weather changes.
Tulips come into their own during April and May, somewhat later then the daffodil.
These spectacular blooms really do make a statement ! Go for “White Elegance”, the stunning pink “Angelique”, or the rich dark “ Queen of Night”. These varieties are superb examples that provide your garden with some real eye catching colour.
Again, there are dwarf varieties – “Lady Jane” is a mere 8cm high – just right for a rockery.
Daffodils and Tulips are without doubt the most popular bulbs, but there really is a huge variety of other easy to grow species ready to be planted this Autumn.
The Snowdrop and the Crocus are the first signals that winter is coming to an end . These are small, easy to plant bulbs that will, in time, naturalise and give you swathes of colour.
Anenomes, Iris, Chionodoxa and Muscari – the grape hyacinth – are all popular, reliable bulbs and will reward you with great colour for many Springs to some.
Some bigger choices are Fritillaria Crown Imperial – which will grow to just under a metre – and the Allium family. These are large, chunky bulbs that will burst into colour if planted directly into your herbaceous border.
Another possibility is to grow your bulbs indoors. Using some good quality bulb fibre , it is a great idea to plant Hyacinths or Narcissi in pots to provide colour and fragrance in your house during the winter.
To get these plants in flower for Christmas, you must get your skates on and plant soon!
Bulbs will give you Spring colour for many, many years – and although there is a bit of work involved planting, the effort really is worth it.
And don’t forget – if you are planting shrubs or plants this Autumn, you’re already digging a hole – so why not pop a few bulbs in at the same time!