In October, David Coton is getting the garden prepared for the onset of colder weather but, at the same time, the arrival of spring bulbs in the garden centre is a reminder that you should also now be planning ahead for next year.
Spring flowering bulbs brighten the garden from when snow is on the ground right through to the sunlit early summer. Here is David Hall's guide to achieving a marvellous display of colour to herald in the new year.
Go to your local garden centre now and you'll find a wide selection of bulbs to be planted in the autumn for wonderful colour next spring.
Delicate snowdrops and crocuses, dazzling yellow daffodils and elegant tulips will all celebrate the arrival of spring next year with a fantastic display.
Spring bulbs are planted in the autumn - daffodils and crocuses by the end of September and tulips in November.
When buying, check that they are undamaged, firm and the skin is still in place. If they are soft or shrivelled, walk away. What you need are fat, healthy looking bulbs from a reliable supplier.
Don't worry about the type of soil you have, as long as it's well drained. If the ground has a claggy clay consistency, dig in some organic matter and plant the bulbs on grit above the level of the lawn. If you don't they may rot.
Use the bulbs as soon as you can and plant at two, perhaps three, times their own depth. Be aware that some bulbs will not flower if they are too shallow.
Also remember to place the bulb the right way up i.e. with the pointed end or 'head' at the top.
The position should be sunny, although various locations in the garden are suitable. For example in an herbaceous border or filling in gaps before the perennials get going.
Bulbs are probably at their most impressive when planted in groups, a mass of flowers covering the whole landscape with colour and swaying in the breeze. If the ground gently rises to reveal them in full splendour, all the better.
Bulbs can also of course be planted in grass, a technique called 'naturalizing'. You'll need a bulb planter for this, placing them haphazardly in a natural way. Alternatively, lift some turf and plant the bulbs underneath.
Remember that you won't be able to cut the grass for several weeks, so early flowering bulbs are probably best.
Only remove foliage after it has turned yellow, and don't be tempted to tie up the leaves, as the bulb will be unable to use the sun's energy to replenish itself.
Bulbs need feeding after flowering. If they are in the border, any fertilizer you give to the shrubs will be sufficient, otherwise a high potash preparation, seaweed or liquid manure, would be beneficial.
A mulch of well rotted manure or compost once the foliage has died down would also be appreciated.
How to plant and maintain Christmas flowering bulbs
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