Plant your spring bulbs now, says Brian Kidd
We'veÂ been buying a few bulbs each week but not planted any because the garden still looks beautiful as we've been keeping up with all our dead-heading.
The welcome recent sunshine has transformed the flower border. It's really attractiveÂ and almost as good as it was in July.
So I thought itÂ a good idea to suggest planting bulbs in pots and have in mind miniature bulbs toÂ brighten an outdoor windowsill if you don't have a garden.
Everyone loves snowdrops and we found a pack of 25 bulbs for Â£3.99. If they were planted directly into the garden the birds will disturb them, the squirrels will eat them and only a few would survive, so normally we would buy them '˜in the green'Â in winter.
However, if they are planted now in clay pots, fiveÂ around the edgeÂ inserting the bulbs so there's an inch of compost over the tips of each,Â they willÂ flower in February.
On a windowsillÂ it's best to use John Innes No2Â compost in clay pots because theseÂ will be heavier than plastic ones and the wind shouldn'tÂ blow them over.
Another little gem for tiny spaces is chionodoxa, orÂ glory-of-the-snow. This has a star-like flowerÂ and there are blue andÂ pink varieties. If you like something no one else has, try the pink one, fiveÂ around the edge of a five-inch diameter pot. They flower in March.
Scilla is another little star whoseÂ nodding blue flowers make the plant appear to be shy. Enhance the colourÂ by spreading silver sand over the compost's surfaceÂ whichÂ intensifies the dark blue hueÂ '“Â a trick I learned as an apprentice gardener. These are best grown in five-inch half-pots.
Iris reticulata is another delight. This time,Â look at the picture on the pack toÂ see if you prefer the light blue, mid-blue or perhaps you will be able to find Cantab,Â a pale blue with lighter centre and just a hintÂ of yellow.
If you're fond of daffodils and live in a windy spot, plant short varieties. TÃªte-Ã -TÃªte has several blooms on each stem and looks brilliant when bulbs are planted leaving just half-an-inch between eachÂ or, if you'reÂ short of space, plant them in two layers in a container. Use a piece of broken clay pot over each hole in the base, use John Innes No2 compost, put a four-inch layer of compost, thenÂ aÂ layer of bulbs, cover them with compost so there'sÂ a two-inch layer of compost over the topÂ '“Â 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 TÃªte-Ã -TÃªte andÂ you'll be delighted.
Jetfire is another beauty. This has an orange trumpet and can be planted in the same way.
If you'dÂ like to cover the surface of aÂ container with flowers all through winter, consider erica carnea, the winter-flowering heather. They normally flower from December until spring, I love erica Vivellii best, it's bright red but difficult to find. Bright red with yellow daffs, now there's something to look forward to!
THIS WEEK'S TOP TIP
Keep dead-heading dahlias and don't forget to remove the twoÂ little buds alongside each of the centre buds to ensure the blooms will have long stems '“Â ideal for using as cut flowers.