Brian Kidd reveals he has swapped his love of Maltesers for... tulips

Beloved by granddaughters - Red Riding Hood.

Beloved by granddaughters - Red Riding Hood.

Wonderfully perfumed  - petunia Blue Vein

BRIAN KIDD: The crafty gardener’s guide to saving cash this summer

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I have always loved tulips. My first encounter was when I was a toddler and my mum grew red and yellow tulips in our garden at Station Road, Copnor, Portsmouth.

I loved the blooms so much I used to squeeze them. Mum would tell me off, walk me away and give me a Malteser.

Sadly, bulb sales are on the decline and despite the beautifully arranged displays at garden centres people simply aren’t buying them. If this continues garden centres won’t stock them and we will all moan.

Bulbs are one of Mother Nature’s miracles because the flower bud is in the centre of every bulb. All that bulb needs is water, soil and air.

I write about this every year because November is the best month to plant tulip bulbs.

The reason for mentioning this is because slugs are not so active in November. Don’t forget a good slug-deterrent is sharp sand. A generous scattering is a good idea.

Tulips love a sunny position but will grow in partial shade.

The secret to success is to plant the bulbs so there is two or three inches of soil over the top of each bulb. This means the bulbs will develop a good root system and the depth of soil will prevent them being pushed over in the wind.

Do you suffer from the wind? Tulips do too but deep planting is the answer.

What about varieties?

Varieties are not important but colour combinations are one of those wonderful gifts you have.

Keep in mind you would like to have colours which blend or contrast.

Pink is a pretty, warm, cuddly colour which looks wonderful with blue. Imagine pink tulips with blue forget-me-nots?

Red is hot and lively. It blends with orange and yellows. Polyanthus will provide the supporting colours.

Size is important too.

If your garden is very windy short tulips are reliable and varieties such as Pinocchio – pale pink with red stripes, only 15in high –make a great present for little boys.

Red Riding Hood – brilliant red, 12in high, very thick stems with large flowers – is a great favourite for grandmas to buy granddaughters because of the Red Riding Hood fary tale.

I hope I have given you some inspiration. If you have a small garden and are good at growing plants in pots and containers you will find tulips a good investment.

At home we don’t plant up hanging baskets during the winter. We put a little piece of shallot bulb into the compost alongside each tulip bulb. Then we place a hanging basket turned upside down on top of pots of tulips to prevent squirrels digging out the bulbs.

Cheeky little monkeys. If left unprotected they dig out the bulbs, hold them in their paws and sit there defying you by munching them up as if there were no tomorrow.

TIP OF THE WEEK

Gardeners want to tidy up the garden at this time of year and this often means cutting back shrubs. But be careful, don’t prune camellias because you will take off next year’s flowers. You can see the large buds on the tips of lots of shoots. Prune as soon as they finish blooming next spring. I will remind you.

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