I had a lovely message from a reader called Lorraine who tells me her petunias have been fed regularly with Maxicrop and are the best ever. She also gives all her spare veg and fruit from her allotment to a charity which prepares meals for people in need. A brilliant idea.
We have been buying a few bulbs each week, not planting them yet as the garden still looks beautiful thanks to regular deadheading. The recent sun has transformed the flower border which is 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 planting miniature bulbs to brighten 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 into the garden, birds will disturb them, the squirrels will eat them and only a few would survive, so normally we would buy them ‘in the green’ in winter.
However if they are planted now in clay pots, planting five around the pot’s 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. These are heavier than plastic and the wind won’t blow them over.
Another gem for tiny spaces is chionodoxa, or Glory of the Snow. It has star-like flowers and there are blue or pink varieties. If you like something no one else has, try the pink, five around the edge of a five-inch diameter pot. They flower in March.
Scilla is another little star with its nodding blue flowers. The flowers’ colour is enhanced by spreading silver sand over the compost’s surface to intensify the dark blue flower colour – a trick I learned as an apprentice. These are best grown in five-inch half-pots.
Iris reticulata is another delight. Look at the picture on the pack’s front to see if you prefer the light blue, mid-blue or perhaps the variety Cantab, a pale blue with a lighter centre and a hint of yellow.
If you like daffodils and live in a windy spot, plant short varieties, Tete a Tete has several blooms on each stem and looks great when 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 pot over each hole in the base with a four-inch layer of John Innes No2 compost and then the layer of bulbs. Cover with the compost so there’s a two-inch layer of compost over the tops then plant another batch. When they flower 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 winter, try erica carnea, the winter-flowering heather. They normally flower from December until spring. I love erica vivellii best, it’s a bright red one but difficult to find. That bright red with yellow daffs is something to look forward to.
THIS WEEK’S TOP TIP
Prune indoor hibiscus as soon as all the flowers have faded. Cut back all the side shoots by half and nip out the tips. Water only when the compost feels dry and don’t feed again until April.