BRIAN KIDD: Miniature bulbs for spring will ease your autumn blues

Snowdrops, the harbinger of spring, will lift the gloom of winter.
Snowdrops, the harbinger of spring, will lift the gloom of winter.
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I don’t know how you feel at this time of year... the ground is too wet and it’s getting dark earlier.

To offset the blues we’ve been buying a few bulbs each week but not planted them because the garden still looks beautiful thanks to regular dead-heading. The recent sunshine has transformed the flower border so it’s almost as good as in July.

What about planting bulbs in pots – miniature ones 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 planted directly in the garden birds will disturb them, squirrels will eat them and only a few would survive. So normally we would buy them ‘in the green’ in winter.

If planted now in clay pots – five around the pot’s edge with an inch of compost over the tips of each bulb – they’ll flower in February.

On a windowsill use John Innes No2 compost in clay pots. They’re heavier than plastic ones and won’t blow over.

Another little gem for tiny spaces is chionodoxa, often called Glory of the Snow. It has a star-like flower and there are blue or pink varieties. Try pink. Five around the edge of a five-inch diameter pot. They flower in March.

Scilla’s another little star. Nodding blue flowers make it appear coy. Enhance the flower’s colour by spreading silver sand on the compost. This intensifies the dark blue flower, a trick I learnt as an apprentice. These are best grown in five-inch half-pots.

Iris reticulata is another delight. Look at the picture on the front of the pack to see if you prefer the light blue or mid-blue. Perhaps you can find the variety Cantab which is pale blue with a lighter centre and just a touch of yellow.

If you are fond of daffodils and live in a windy spot, plant 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 one. If you’re short of space plant them in two layers in a container.

Put a piece of broken clay pot over each hole in the base, use John Innes No2 and put in a four-inch layer of that compost. Now a layer of bulbs covering them with a two-inch layer of compost on top. Then plant another batch of the same variety. When they flower in spring, the container will be a mass of colour. Don’t plant ‘mixed’. Tete a Tete will delight you.

Jetfire is another beauty. This has orange trumpets and can be planted in the same way.

Want to cover the surface of a container with flowers all winter? Try erica carnea, the winter-flowering heather. They normally flower from December until spring.

I love erica vivellii. It’s bright red but difficult to find. Red set against yellow daffs, now there’s something to look forward to.


If your grape hyacinth flowers have become small, don’t despise them. Now is the time to dig them all out. Spread the bulbs on a large piece of carpet and find the large ones.

Plant these again in a new place scattering on Vitax Q4 fertiliser where they are to be planted and rake it in. Replant the bulbs and the flowers will be large next spring. Take the tiny ones to the recycling centre or plant them in a ‘wild area’ but not in the countryside.