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On Sunday afternoon you can still hear hum of lawnmowers and hedge trimmers. But, if you want flowering bulbs to fill your Christmas with colour and fragrance, David Hall says that you must start planning now.
Traditionally the most popular bulbs are hyacinths, followed by narcissi and amaryllis. A good range will be available from most garden centres and they are relatively easy to grow.
Depending on the cultivar, Hyacinths require about 11-13 weeks to flower, Amaryllis need to be planted in October as they take about 10 weeks, while Daffodils will take 6 – 10 weeks.
Make sure you buy 'prepared' bulbs. Early varieties include 'Delft Blue' and the dark pink 'Jan Bos'. You might want to wear gloves (hyacinth bulbs can cause irritation) when planting either in bulb fibre, or a moisture retentive, free draining, compost if the pot has drainage holes.
Position the bulbs close together but not touching on a moist bottom layer of the fibre or compost , then fill in the gaps so that the tops of the bulbs are just showing and there's about half an inch to the top of the pot.
Now place in a dark, cool (48F) place. This can be achieved by covering in a black bin bag and leaving in the shed or garage. Check regularly to keep the growing medium moist but not wet. When the shoots are about 2ins tall, move into a lighter place that is out of direct sunlight and away from any central heating radiators.
You can also place the pot on wet gravel to improve humidity. At Christmas they can be displayed in a warmer room but the flowers will last longer in a cool environment.
With lovely trumpet blooms of many colours on erect statuesque stems and straplike foliage, the amaryllis looks superb planted individually. 'Minerva', with attractive red and white petals, is a good variety to choose for Christmas flowering. First soak the bulb's roots in water.
The bulbs are quite large and can be planted tightly, leaving only about an inch gap to the edge of the pot, with the top third above the surface. Water well but make sure drainage is effective, so if you are using compost, rather than bulb fibre, mix in some grit and choose a pot with drainage holes. Putting in a slim supporting stake now might be a good idea, then keep in a draught free position at about 20C.
When growth starts, position in a light location and rotate the plant so that it develops a straight stem. Water well when the surface dries and use a fortnightly fertilizer. When flowers emerge you can move to a cooler position to prolong the display.
'Paper White' is a favourite variety as it's early and has a wonderful scent. Place the bulbs into compost mixed with grit, the tips should be just above the surface, water and leave in a cool location.
When the shoots are about 2ins tall they can be moved gradually to a slightly lighter, warmer, location until in full bloom but keep out of direct sunlight. After flowering keep the bulbs in the pot or dry and pot again for next Christmas.
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