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It's time to plant spring bulbs

  22/08/2013 at 10:31 am

It’s now the middle of August and herbaceous borders are now in their element with a dazzling array of summer colours. If you rewind the clock back to last autumn, this is where the preparation of these borders began. Don’t be under any illusion, herbaceous border don’t just happen, they are created with careful planning and lots of preparation. Traditionally the main planting season was in late autumn to early winter. The main reason for this was that many plants were dormant (not actively growing) so they could be dug up and transplanted and larger plants divided. But over time this tradition has unfortunately been lost through the advent of the plastic pot. Don’t get me wrong this has totally transformed the garden world. This has allowed plants to be planted all-year-round and even allowed plants to be planted in dry weather, which would not have been normally possible.

There is an old expression “you wouldn’t buy a pig in a poke”. This is a term used to say that you wouldn’t part with your money before you see what you were getting. This is probably the main reason that many customers prefer to buy herbaceous perennials, roses and shrubs in full flower. You now know what you are getting, but you now have the added work of watering them during dry weather. If you are not willing to give the extra time to water plants during dry weather, then its best to plant in autumn.

Unlike most plants, spring bulbs have to be planted in autumn so the cold weather can initiate them to flower in early spring. Ok you can buy potted bulbs in late spring, but this is not a viable alternative to the traditional planting of spring bulbs. Back to what I was saying regarding herbaceous perennials, you are literally working at least six months ahead. The best time for planting spring bulbs is from August to November. I am often asked why they can’t buy loose bulbs any more. Many people want the convenience of just picking up a packet with all the instruction on the reverse and a nice glossy pic on the front to remind them what to expect next spring. Then there are parents who think the spring bulb display is an activity centre to amuse their children while they shop, I might stress this is only a minority. But at the same time many customers find it very annoying, when the bulbs flowers a different to what they picked.

To do list:

1. Plant autumn flowering crocus now. Tip: Autumn crocus are not to be confused with spring flowering crocus, as they are planted now and will flower in late autumn. Crocus prefers an open, sunny position but will tolerate light shade. Crocuses are good for rockeries, raised beds, fronts of borders or naturalising in grass.

2. Plant your daffodils now. Tip: With careful planning you can have daffodils flowering from January right through to May. When planting dig a hole that will accommodate at least five bulbs, this will give more impact when they flower. Remember to fork in a little bonemeal prior to planting and water after initial planting.

3. Plant bluebells for naturalising under trees. Tip: These woodland plants prefer dappled shade or places where they are shaded from the heat of afternoon sun. They are perfect for planting under deciduous trees. Add plenty of organic matter prior to planting.

By Eamonn Wall