A warm summer’s evening might seem a weird time to be thinking about spring, but as anyone who’s been to any DIY store or garden centre recently will know, it’s bulb time again. Like mushrooms after the rain, racks of packets, covered in gaudy pictures, suddenly sprout on the shelves, and the soft thud of the Bakker.com bulb catalogue on the doormat heralds a change in the pace of the gardening year.
Their appearance is a marker of the seasons, as much as going back to school, the swallows disappearing or the first frost. The days may still be warm and sunny, but it’s time to dream of spring and get cracking.
As a general rule, the earlier something flowers, the earlier you should plant it. So snowdrops, crocuses and scillas (http://www.bakker.com/en-gb/p/scilla-siberica-M38554) all need to go in ASAP. Alliums are an exception to the rule – although many of them flower later than most spring bulbs, they benefit from a long season in the ground to get their roots going. Daffodils want planting over the next month or so, but tulips prefer to go in the ground later.
It’s worth getting orders in early to be sure of getting your chosen varieties. This year I’m growing lots of miniature daffodils – they look amazing in pots and die back much more gracefully than the larger ones). Dutch iris ‘Tiger Mix’ is also on the list – such a gorgeous array of deep, complex colours. Dutch iris are a super-easy to grow, make great cut flowers and they come back year after year. In shop-bought bouquets you only get the bog standard Dairy Milk wrapper purple ones, but grow them yourself and you can get every colour from white through ice-blue to rich coppery orange and maroon.
Many of my bulbs have already arrived, and more are due any day. This weekend is Bulb Planting Weekend… I can’t wait!