BRIAN KIDD: Plant drifts of crocus to lift your garden

Something to crow about - drifts of purple crocus against gold.

Something to crow about - drifts of purple crocus against gold.

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We can bring spring closer by planting bulbs and corms which can be left in the soil instead of digging them up.

And often, if left to naturalise, they will continue to flower each spring for years.

It isn’t necessary to plant bulbs in grass, in fact it’s a nuisance. If planted in lawns don’t cut off the foliage with the mower or the bulbs will deteriorate.

However, if they are not cut, you will be left with areas of long grass and bulb leaves which look untidy.

The reason for not cutting the foliage is simple: the leaves take energy from light, mixing it with carbon dioxide from the air. This turns to sugar which is passed down into the bulb to be stored as starch.

As soon as the foliage begins to die naturally, the bulb starts creating a flower bud ready for the spring. If the foliage is cut off, this can’t happen.

So it might be better to plant bulbs in the borders. However, they might be wonderful when blooming, but the leaves get in the way when planting summer annuals. And when we fork the soil lightly, we might stab a bulb. And when moving plants around, we dig up bulbs accidentally. This means having to replant them again, another job we don’t want.

But if bulbs are planted with a covering of about five inches of soil over the top, they are then deep enough to be out of the way when you fork the soil.

The range of bulbs available at garden centres provides a choice for various places in the garden and you can buy some which flower early. One is a narcissus called February Gold with long stems and long, thin trumpets. It is one of the earliest to bloom.

For tiny gardens and rock garden pockets there are the delights of Little Witch, Jetfire with orange trumpets, and lots of others. Their packets carry excellent descriptions with pictures.

With bulbs these days you can’t go wrong because the flower bud is already in the bulb; all it needs is soil, air and water.

Crocus corms can be planted from September until Christmas week. They will be wonderful a few weeks later in the early part of spring.

One of the best ways to plant them is in drifts. They look too formal planted equal distances apart, but if scattered and planted where they land, the results are brilliant.

Rather than mixed, go for colour combinations. For example, plant purple against a background of gold – the contrast is great.

Plant crocuses so the tops are covered with three inches of soil. The reason is, every year the corm produces two daughters on top of the original corm. After several years the corms appear to be on top of the soil making them attractive to squirrels.

Plant crocuses at the base of shrubs, in grass in informal drifts, in rock gardens, sink gardens, pots and containers.

Look ahead... if planted now they’ll bloom in 12 weeks, winter will be almost over and it won’t be long until summer.

TIP OF THE WEEK

This is the best time to plant tulips because the colder weather encourages slugs to be less active.

Don’t forget, tulips look great in tubs and pots.

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