Bulbs for those without gardens

Chionodoxa
Chionodoxa
Chrysanthemums bought in pots and added to the border look great in autumn.

BRIAN KIDD: Mum’s the word for an added splash of autumn fire in borders

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We’ve been buying a few bulbs each week, but not planting them yet because the garden still looks beautiful thanks to the regular removal of dead flowers.

The recent sunshine has transformed the flower border. It’s still attractive and almost as good as it was in July.

I thought it might be a good idea to suggest planting bulbs in pots and have in mind miniature bulbs which would brighten up an outdoor windowsill if you don’t have a garden.

Everyone loves snowdrops and we found a pack of 25 bulbs for £3.99. If they were planted directly in the garden the birds would disturb them, the squirrels would eat them and only a few would survive. So, normally we buy them ‘in the green’ in winter.

However, if they are planted now in clay pots, placing five around the edge, inserting the bulbs so there is an inch of compost over the tips of each bulb, they will flower in February.

On a windowsill it’s best to use John Innes No2 compost in clay pots because the pots are heavier than the plastic variety and the wind won’t blow them off.

Another little gem for tiny spaces is chionodoxa, often called Glory-of-the-Snow. They have a star-like flower and there are blue or pink varieties. If you like something no one else has, try the pink variety; five around the edge of a five-inch diameter pot. They flower in March.

Scilla is another little star. Nodding blue flowers make the plant look shy. The flower’s colour is enhanced by spreading silver sand over the compost’s surface. This intensifies the dark blue flower colour, a trick shown me when I as an apprentice gardener.

These are best grown in five-inch half-pots with silver sand on the surface.

Iris reticulata is another delight. Have a look at the picture on the front of the pack and see if you would prefer the light blue, mid-blue or perhaps you’ll be able to find Cantab which is pale blue with a lighter centre and a hint of yellow.

If you are fond of daffodils and live in a windy spot, plant some short varieties. Tete-a-Tete has several blooms on each stem and looks brilliant when the bulbs are planted leaving only half-an-inch between each bulb. If you are short of space plant them in two layers in a container.

Use a piece of broken clay flower pot over each hole in the base. Use John Innes No2 compost. Put a four-inch layer of compost, then the layer of bulbs. Cover them with compost so there is a two-inch layer of compost over the tops then plant another batch of the same variety. When the flowers arrive in spring, the container will be a mass of colour.

Don’t plant mixed, try Tete-a-Tete and you will be delighted.

Jetfire is another beauty; this has an orange trumpet and can be planted in the same way.

If you would like to cover the surface of the container with flowers all through the winter, try Erica Carnea, the winter flowering heather. They normally flower from December until spring, I love Erica Vivellii best, it’s the bright red one, but difficult to find.

Bright red with yellow daffs, something to look forward to.

Tip of the week

Autumn is a beautiful time of year, with the trees changing colour.

Sometimes it may seem pointless raking up leaves when the wind blows even more on to the lawn. But just think of all the lovely leafmould you can make.

It’s also time to start preparing for early frosts.