Thrifty lovers and gardeners who like a bit of a bargain, read on. Now’s the time to get inventive for some low-cost yet surprisingly elegant presents next year. “Here’s something I grew for you” sounds so much better than “Here’s something I just bought you”, doesn’t it? And what could be a better Valentine’s Day present than home-grown flowers?
As a general rule, the earlier a bulb flowers in the spring, the earlier your should plant it, so to get blooming pots of colour in time for February 14th, now’s the time to get going. Dwarf iris and early varieties of crocus work especially well. And even if Cupid has shot no arrows, the sight of fresh flowers in the dark days of February is enough to cheer even the most jaded heart.
I was lucky in finding a stash of ancient terracotta pots in the shed I inherited on the allotment – these make great pots for bulbs, and once cleaned up a little they fit perfectly into the ‘shabby chic’ aesthetic that seems to be so popular at the moment. Check through sites such as eBay for a huge array of vintage terracotta pots, or have a look at Bakker Spalding’s range of pots if you fancy something a bit more contemporary.
How to plant a present
Today I re-potted a cluster of crocus I’d managed to keep for myself last year (great money-saving tip number two – become single a week before Valentine’s day). The method is exactly the same for shop-bought bulbs: plant them at 2-3 times their own depth in good quality multipurpose compost or bulb fibre. Water them well and put them outside.
They need to chill out over winter! Without some cold to shock them into growth they’ll never flower well.
When shoots start to show in January, they can be moved into a cool room or porch to continue growing. Remember – the warmer they are, the faster they’ll grow – so move them into warmer/cooler places according to how far advanced they are in order to have blooms for Valentine’s day. It’s amazing how quickly tight buds will open up into flowers when bought into the warmth of a centrally-heated house. Let’s just hope none of us have to re-pot them for ourselves next year!