Monday, 13 October 2014



As summer flowers are just about finished we turn our attention to next year to plan what bulbs to buy for our spring displays, as well as the main annual bedding plants for beds, tubs and hanging baskets.
For sheer impact in large beds and borders it is hard to beat Golden Monarch wallflower underplanted with the large Darwin Hybrid tulip Apeldoorn. This combination is as old as the hills, but it will always be a great winner for sheer impact. However there are many other very successful partnerships with spring bedding plants and tulips. Polyanthus, primroses, myosotis (Forget me nots) and winter pansies will all give a great display on their own, but are best enhanced to full glory with an underplanting of tulips, hyacinths and crocus.
It is important to match tulip height with its bedding plant ground cover as well as its colour and flowering season. Wallflower is the tallest so needs a tall tulip like the Darwin Hybrids, the Fosteriana types or the slightly smaller early single tulips. For all the other bedding plants that only grow about a foot tall I use the early dwarf double tulips, (Peach Blossom)  or some of the species such as Red Riding Hood.
Tubs placed near entrance doorways can be planted up with some of the scented tulips such as the white Fosteriana Purissima or Apricot Emperor.
Hyacinths are also favourite for these locations as they are also very scented and the strong solid flower spikes are very impressive. The flowering season for tubs can be extended by adding snowdrops or crocus as well as tulips as they all grow at different depths and have different flowering periods so will grow happily together.
I also plant up my hanging baskets with pansies for a spring display, but don’t use bulbs as the baskets are too high to show the bulb flowers. I tend to keep my hanging baskets in my cold greenhouse to give them some winter protection and bring on the flowers a wee bit early. It also makes watering a lot easier.

However when planning my bulb purchases I organise the garden needs by season starting with the earliest flowers. Snowdrops and aconites will emerge in early February in a normal year, but since we never seem to get a normal year, (they flowered in January this year after a very mild winter) just expect them sometime in late winter. Both will rapidly spread into large drifts as they seed and naturalise happily.
These are followed by the Crocus species, (two best ones are Cream Beauty and Blue Pearl) then the hybrid crocus. These are all brilliant in tubs, beds, deciduous shrub borders and even under the apple tree orchards.
Daffodils and narcissus follow with any amount of different types available and many highly scented especially the Jonquills and the Cheerfulness varieties.
There are many types of dwarf bulbs very suited to the rock garden as well as underplanted amongst deciduous shrubs. Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snows) and grape hyacinths are very welcome harbingers of spring, but be careful with the grape hyacinth as it grows very easily from its own seeds and can be very invasive.
Bluebells can also be very attractive, but are hard to control as they will want to take over the whole garden.
The Cornish Lily, Nerine bowdenii is in flower now rather than in spring, but bulbs are available for planting in autumn. It forms dense drifts of pink flowers once established.
Plant of the week

 Jasminum polyanthum is most often grown as a houseplant, but can be grown outdoors in a sunny sheltered spot. It is fairly hardy but will not survive a really cold winter outdoors. It grows best on most soils, except clay as long as they are free draining. It has white scented flowers in summer. It is an evergreen climber that can reach several metres high.

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