Monday, 7 October 2013



The summer this year will be well remembered as one of the best for a very long time. The garden has never looked better and fruit and vegetables have been prolific. However, good results are only possible if we plan well ahead so that the garden is ready when the sun shines. Now is the time to plan for next springs flowers and look out some good bulbs while they are available in catalogues and at garden centres.
I buy in some bulbs every year, and although the garden must be packed with them, I can always find space for a few more. This autumn my priority will be buying in dwarf double early tulips to plant in my annual flower beds where they will be underplanted amongst pansies, polyanthus and forget me nots. I normally use wallflower as my main bedding plant, but this year I got duff seed which failed to germinate leaving me with very few plants. However I got great germination of polyanthus and myosotis from an early summer sowing and I now have several rows of strong plants growing on my allotment ready to lift in October.

Early flowers

My first flowers from bulbs are always the aconites. It is so welcome to see the first flowers appear towards the end of winter, often pushing their heads above the snow. You only need to buy bulbs once as they spread very readily from seed saved after flowering and scattered on the surface where ever you want them to grow. Aconites are quickly followed by the snowdrops which also spread very easily both by seed and also by splitting up thick groups just after flowering.

Then comes the crocus species, flowering a week or two ahead of the larger flowering crocus hybrids. The best species for me are Blue Pearl, Snow Bunting, Ruby Giant and Cream Beauty.
Good  larger flowered hybrids include Pickwick, Remembrance, Flower Record, Golden Mammoth and Joan of Arc. Always plant bulbs in a sunny spot as crocus need sunshine to open up the flowers.

Daffodils, tulips and hyacinths

When the daffodils start flowering you know spring has arrived, so you must find some spots for them. King Alfred and Golden Harvest are the best large flowered trumpet daffodils, but Mount Hood is an excellent white, then there are numerous narcissi all with great merit. Double flowered Cheerfulness comes in a range of varieties all with an excellent scent, but it is very hard to beat the Jonquils for an exotic perfume. Plant daffodils and narcissus about four to six inches deep and spaced randomly about six inches apart in drifts. They can all go in deciduous shrub borders, herbaceous borders or in the lawn, though you won’t be able to mow it for at least six or more weeks after flowering. This allows the leaves time to build up a good bulb for flowering the following year.
I plant new hyacinths in my flower tubs placed by doorways every autumn so we can enjoy the flowers and scent in spring as we come and go. Jan Bos, Pink Pearl, L’Innocence and Ostara are all great varieties. After flowering these get dried off and stored till autumn when I then find a sunny spot in the garden to plant them.
Tulips form my main flower display in beds, tubs and borders everywhere. I keep all bulbs from one year to the next as well as the wee bulbs as these will flower after one or two years. I like early tulips to follow on after the daffodils, but then by the end of May I am looking for early summer flowers rather than late spring blossom. Thus I have never favoured late flowering tulips like many Triumphs, Lily flowered, peony, parrot or fringed, though very many of them have lovelly flowers. My favourite tulips include the single early, (Bellona, Apricot Beauty, Princes Irene, Keizerskroon, and Couleur Cardinal), double early, (Peach Blosson, Monsella, Abba and William of Orange), Fosteriana types, (Purissima and Red Emperor) and for a massive impact of large bold flowers try the Darwin Hybrids, (Apeldoorn, Apeldoorn Elite and Golden Apeldoorn.)

Plant of the week

Hardy outdoor Grape vine Brant was really only intended as an ornamental grape vine with brilliant autumn colour. The grape bunches are small and never really considered the main attraction. However it does produce bunches very prolifically which ripen every year in my Dundee garden. The small bunches are packed tight with sweet juicy black grapes and although they do have pips, these are very small and contain most of the health benefits of grapes. Our single grape vine trained onto a south and west facing walls will give us numerous bunches every year. Last year we produced our first demijohn of wine which is now down to mature, but after this years very hot summer the bunches and individual grapes are quite large so we look forward to even more wine if we can stop eating the grapes.


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