TIME TO ORDER SPRING BULBS
The summer flowers in tubs, baskets and borders are still flowering in great profusion, but as autumn is not too far away we need to plan ahead for the spring displays that will replace them once the cold weather arrives to put an end to the blossom.
In past times you could expect frosts in October and snow in November, but climate change has pushed back the cold weather so summer flowers continue to bloom well beyond their normal season. However, next years bedding plants of wallflower, pansies, myosotis and polyanthus will want to be planted in October with tulips, hyacinths and crocus planted between them. Now is the time to be ordering these bulbs from suppliers online or from garden centres while they are in stock and before they clear everything out to replace them with the Christmas trees and decorations.
I did a fair bit of planning last spring looking at my existing bulb displays and noting gaps to be filled and new landscape planting to be tidied up. One drift of crocus has too many yellow bulbs so I will add more purple, white and striped crocus.
In another area underneath my apple trees, I have a large drift of blue pulmonaria which I will enhance with an underplanting of dwarf red and yellow early flowering tulips.
Next to it one massive ceanothus shrub died out and was replaced with a large group of the yellow flowering doronicums. I will add to their spring display with a batch of early red tulip Red Riding Hood, which should contrast perfectly with the yellow flowers.
Another newly landscaped area with peonies, which are excellent as ground cover, I will plant a large drift of the tall Darwin Hybrid tulips to flower in spring before the peonies need the space. The display will be further enhanced with a planting of tall scented oriental lilies for the mid to late summer display, by which time the peonies are all finished.
Every year fresh tulips, hyacinths and crocus are purchased for planting in between the spring flowers in tubs and borders, then when they are finished I always find a spot in the garden for the old bulbs which will naturalise and spread from year to year.
Some bulbs will spread very readily themselves from seed. Aconites, snowdrops, crocus, anemone blanda and grape hyacinths are all easy to grow and spread from their own seed but grape hyacinth can become very invasive so be careful where you put them.
Although there has been a fair bit of mild winters since 2010, it is still very pleasing to see the arrival of the first flowers in late winter. This is normally the snowdrops and aconites, though I had snowdrops in flower last December. It is a good idea to plant these snowdrops and aconites where they can be seen from the comfort of a warm room.
The next spring display is often the crocus, so I try to enhance this show by adding more bulbs every year into the existing drifts. These are quickly followed by the daffodils and narcissi, so find some room for these under deciduous trees and shrubs and around plants in the herbaceous border.
When the tulips arrive you know that the spring is here and warm weather will allow you to have your coffee breaks outdoors in the sunshine. This is when the patio comes back into use so make sure a lot of the displays are in this area and use plenty of hyacinths to add scent to the atmosphere.
Wee jobs to do this week
Now that the lawn grass growth is starting to slow down we can start on the autumn renovation work. Any bare patches can be top dressed with some sterilised top soil or compost and sown with a fine lawn seed mixture as there is still time for germination before winter arrives. Any lawn with a moss problem can be treated with lawn sand, or you can buy in some sulphate of iron and mix a dessert spoonful to the gallon and water it over the moss. This will kill the moss and feed the grass.
Later on in October lawns can be scarified to remove surface thatch (accumulations of dead leaves) then aerated with a fork. Fill in the holes with an autumn lawn compost containing a slow release fertiliser and brush it in.