Gardening: Golden light at the end of winter’s dark tunnel | Brian Kidd
October and November are good months for planting daffodils and narcissus in the garden. If you are like us you wait until summer plants have been frosted as there aren't any vacant spots to plant bulbs until then. And we had our first frost this week.
They are good value and if the job is done well you should see the flowers for a number of years, particularly if you can leave them in an area where they may naturalise.
If bulbs are dug up and allowed to dry off in the summer, the blooms will not be so good the following year and, if the practice continues, eventually you’ll have no flowers at all.
Daffodils and narcissus are not fussy. Find a spot with lots of light for most of the day although partial shade is not a problem.
If you regularly read these features you know I rarely recommend mixed plantings, and this is certainly something I would avoid when choosing bulbs.
If you plant mixed, they are cheaper of course, but the problem is the early flowers die off leaving dead blooms behind. You then have the main show of blooms spoiled by dead flowers. When the later ones appear the whole effect is ruined by the brown flowers of all the others.
Select bulbs which have names. Look for Rembrandt, one of the boldest daffodils, and plant another variety next to it. See if you can find Sempre Avanti, a wonderful narcissus with white petals and an orange circular centre.
If you enjoy fragrance try one called Geranium. It has several white flowers on each stem and the orange circle in the centre is lovely.
If you have shrubs a group of daffs or narcissus planted around them means they are out of the way when it comes to digging and the spring effect is admirable.
Planting depth is important. If bulbs are planted too shallowly, the blooms fail to open properly. The same applies if bulbs are planted too late. Plant so there is a covering of about three inches of soil over the top of each bulb. If the soil is heavy, half a handful of sharp sand under each will help.
There's no need to add fertiliser to the soil. If you want to feed bulbs wait until they are in flower, the soil will be warmer and the bulbs will absorb the food.
Bulbs are miraculous wonders of creation because the blooms are already in the bulb, all we need is light, water and air. The soil is only there to stop them falling over.
If your bulbs were poor last year and the leaves streaky and brown this was possibly because of narcissus bulb fly. This lays eggs in the bulbs just as the foliage is starting to die. If this was the case dig them out and and start afresh. A dusting of Dof ant powder around the bulbs’ bases next spring will keep the fly at bay.
If you don't want to plant any more bulbs, ask yourself: Are the flowers as lovely as they were in 1954 when I last planted some? If not, then buy some bulbs to bring spring a little closer.
Rest assured you will enjoy looking at these lovely gems in full bloom in about 20 weeks!
THIS WEEK’S TOP TIP
Clean the glass on the outside of the greenhouse. There are glass cleaners especially produced for this chore or Flash, the floor cleaner, also does a good job.