Thursday, 12 May 2016



This must be one of the best ever years for spring flowering bulbs. In normal years we get a spring flush when a few really sunny warm days all come along together, but there has been none of that this year. Instead the long cool spell has been a boon as flowers are slow to open but remain in place for much longer than normal. Thus the tulips are having a great time alongside the daffodils and narcissi which are continuing to flower well past their season.
The garden is now seeing the benefits of flower bulb recycling over the years, as all bulbs used in flower beds, pots, tubs and baskets are replanted all over the garden and allowed to naturalise. Left to do their own thing without disturbance, and given a wee dressing of well rotted garden compost in early winter they seem to thrive and clumps build up over time to create magnificent drifts of mixed colours.
Tulip Carnaval du Nice
Last autumn flower tubs were planted up with polyanthus and winter pansies all underplanted with tulips, hyacinths and crocus. The tulips used were all dwarf early types so the flowers would show just above the bedding plants. Some of my favourite tulips included Monsella, Red Riding Hood, Peach Blossom and Abba. One large wooden tub has a group of scented oriental lilies for summer colour and fragrance. To give some spring colour the tub was also planted with Iceland poppies and a yellow single early tulip Cape Town. These will all be left to naturalise, but if the Iceland poppies begin to go over in mid summer they will be replaced with another late summer bedding plant.
I have always experimented with companion planting, so I thought it would be great to start the show early with tulips flowering alongside other garden plants. Tulip Scarlet Baby, an early flowering kaufmaniana type was planted adjacent to a large established drift of lemon yellow saxifrage. This year timing was perfect as they both came out together in early April, but my plan to add early orange tulips into a drift of blue pulmonaria is another story. I used a dwarf early variety, Monte Orange which never opened up till the end of April while the Pulmonaria was in full flower at the beginning of April. Just can’t win them all. This autumn I must find an earlier tulip.
Tulip Monsella
However my triumph tulip Negrita a deep purple growing 18 inches tall was just perfect mixed amongst a new planting of yellow Doronicums. Both are flowering together this year so I will leave them to naturalise, hoping next year they will still flower at the same time.
Last year I found a highly scented white tulip, Purissima. The scent was very pleasant so after some research I discovered there are quite a few scented tulips so I thought I would try several scented tulips to see if this feature had any prominence.
I bought another batch of Purissima, a fosteriana type frowering in mid April, some William of Orange, Abba and Monte Orange. I cannot say I got one whiff of scent from any of them, unless they need a warm humid atmosphere to give off their perfume. Even my own established Purissima let me down. Maybe it is just too cold this year for exotic scented tulips.
Up at the allotment I have a flower bed next to the main path to brighten up the plot. It has a permanent planting of a few roses, flag iris and Iceland poppies, with bulbs between them. It is
Tulip Aperdoorn
packed with daffodils, crocus, aconites and tulips so I get a continuous show from spring till autumn. The bulbs have been in the ground for many years and I add more whenever I see a wee gap. It is no longer possible to cultivate the soil so I just add some garden compost in autumn and the worms do the rest.

Wee jobs around the garden

As cold north winds continue to blow and frosty nights remain a problem, watch out for growth on early potatoes and earth up to give them some protection. My Casablanca appeared above ground in mid April one month after planting, but now towards the end of April there is still little sign of warm spring days. Similarly, early sown peas such as Kelvedon Wonder is now showing the tips breaking through the soil, so if frost threatens the either cover them with fleece or some soil.


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