Brian Kidd says naked ladies will bare all for some autumn fun

Naked ladies -  an autumn delight
Naked ladies - an autumn delight
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Fancy a great show of colour during the autumn?

This is an excellent time to introduce autumn flowering bulbs into the garden. Have a look to see if you can find any of these: hardy amaryllis, nerines, autumn flowering crocus, autumn flowering cyclamen or sternbergia lutea. They will be found in cellophane packs with a picture of the flower on the front.

It is important to find the right spot as all these bulbs and corms must be grown in well-drained, well-prepared soil. This means digging the area over to a depth of 10in and breaking up clods into a fine tilth.

When you’ve done that scatter blood, fish and bone over the soil’s surface and work it into the top two or three inches of the tilth. Use two to three ounces per square yard. Try doing it when the soil is moist. If the soil is dry, give it a good soak after planting.

All the bulbs should be planted so the tops are about half-an-inch above the soil’s surface. Amaryllis are planted five inches apart, in groups of three; nerines and sternbergia, three inches apart in a circle, while autumn crocus are lovely planted in a drift. Make sure they are all watered in well after planting.

The flowers will appear in the autumn and the leaves, which make the bulbs grow, appear in the spring.

Cyclamen are best planted at the front of the border, the tubers about three inches apart and simply pushed into the soil’s surface so they are half in and half out. Again flowers will be seen from early autumn and if the weather is cool they will provide tiny flowers for about six weeks. During spring, there will be a carpet of beautifully-veined leaves.

I’ve just had a thought. You might not know about sternbergia lutea. They are often called golden autumn crocus and look like large crocus on stems about four inches long. They can be difficult to find but if you grow some, you will have an autumn-flowering bulb which very few people have seen. Visitors to your garden will think you are a specialist!

Now, what about something for the children? Remember, they like things to happen quickly.

Buy a colchicum bulb. They are also called naked ladies which will make the little ones titter. Put one into the top of an egg cup without any water and put it on the children’s windowsill in the light. In early autumn a pink flower will emerge miraculously followed by others a couple of days later. This thrills children and you can explain they are called naked ladies because they have no leaves.

After flowering plant the bulb outdoors and label it because in the spring large leaves appear which looks a bit like dock. All through summer the leaves work to make the bulb larger. They have babies and next autumn you will have a lovely clump of naked ladies. What could be nicer...


This is a good time to replant a strawberry bed.

It’s a particularly good time if you have allowed strawberry plants’ runners to grow in little pots alongside the parent plants.

If not, strawberry plants can be bought at garden centres.