Planting for a splash of early spring colour

Tulip Pinocchio is a good choice if you want to get the children interested in gardening.
Tulip Pinocchio is a good choice if you want to get the children interested in gardening.

GARDENING: Readers' questions and a whole host of horticultural jobs from Brian Kidd

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There is no hurry to clear containers because the variable weather tends to prolong the colour and it’s a good idea to keep as much colour in the garden in order to make the winter shorter.

Did you replace the compost in the containers last spring or did you fork the top over and add some fertiliser and top up with new compost?

Autumn planting for spring flowers gives us the ideal opportunity to replace the contents of the containers with fresh John Innes number 3 compost, but it’s a good idea to add 10 per cent sharp sand and mix this well as it improves the drainage.

If changing the compost is a chore, once the summer flowers are removed the top of the compost is forked over and a fertiliser is forked in.

Rose fertiliser, Vitax Q4 or any kind of powdered fertiliser may be used. I mention this because there may be one of these in your shed.

Dwarf bulbs are ideal, have a look at the pictures on the fronts of the bulb packs and check the heights.

If you have children, Tulip Pinocchio is a good choice for boys. Red Riding Hood is adored by little girls – the flowers are large and bright red.

Plant tulips so that three inches of compost covers the top of the bulb and the sharp tips are uppermost.

Tulips come into flower after the early varieties of daffodils have finished blooming.

Remove all the compost from the container and after cleaning the pot, place crocks (pieces of broken clay pots) over the hole in the base. Use a fertiliser for flowers and mix this into the compost.

Place three inches of compost into the base and then plant a batch of Narcissus Jet Fire. These have an orange trumpet.

Cover this layer of bulbs with three inches of compost and plant Daffodil February Gold. Add another layer of compost and plant the dwarf tulips over the top.

What a show in late winter right up until spring, but it is possible to add even more colour by planting yellow or golden polyanthus five inches apart to cover the surface of the compost.

These will provide a few flowers through winter but when there are no flowers the foliage is evergreen.

Once the planting is completed, place three little feet below the container to keep it off the paving or soil.

This ensures earthworms don’t enter through the holes in the base. If they enter containers they eat all the humus and fibre.

The compost ends up like silt and the flowers are disappointing.