It seems a little contrary to be thinking about spring when we have enjoyed the reprieve of a late summer, but now is the time to order some bulbs.
Daffodils and narcissi like to be planted in September in order to get their roots down and give the best display. Tulips prefer to hang around until November.
Actually, last season mine hung around until February because I was too lazy, busy and distracted to get them planted earlier. They still put on a fine display.
It made me feel a little guilty that they had repaid my sloth with such splendid generosity but that’s Mother Nature for you: all heart. I wouldn’t advise leaving it so late, though; don’t delay buying your bulbs until what may seem the more appropriate time, as autumn cloaks us in its splendid cloth of crimson and orange.
The humble daffodil appears in many different forms, from simple trumpets to flowers so double frilled and flounced that they would not disgrace a boudoir
If you do, cannier gardeners will have taken the pick of the bunch. Many’s the time I have rued the day I finally got round to ordering that glorious tulip I’d set my heart on, only to discover it had sold out.
And what glory there is to be had in the tulip palette: such painterly displays of colour and form as to make artists of us all.
Forget the stolid sentries of red and yellow that march in serried ranks through municipal parks, and let your imagination run riot.
There is magic to be made and comfort to be had when we are tucked up in our houses in the iron grip of winter simply in knowing that, come spring, the garden will be transformed into a place of extraordinary beauty.
Delicate scent of daffodils
As for the humble daffodil, it also appears in many different forms, from simple trumpets to flowers so double-frilled and flounced – many of them perfumed with delicate scent – that they would not disgrace a boudoir.
Then, of course, there is that harbinger of a new year, the snowdrop – although planting bulbs tends to be met with disappointment because, too often, they fail to appear. Far better to guarantee success by planting them ‘in the green’, in spring (the ‘green’ meaning that the flowers have faded to leave a clump of sword-shaped leaves).
They may look a little sorry for themselves at first but, once established in the garden, will spread and eventually form that most lyrical and uplifting of sights on a bleak wintry day: a carpet of snowdrops.
The cheerful crocus
As they fade, the cheerful crocus will appear and, with some judicious planting of early, middling and late narcissi and tulips (according to the months they flower), the garden will be ablaze with colour until May.
It’s then that a firework of a bulb appears: the allium, with its sparkling balls of violet, rising majestically above the fresh new green that heralds early summer.
There is no advice to be given on choosing bulbs or making planting schemes, just as there is no such thing as a good or bad flower. That is part of the joy of creating our own personal paradise. The only worthwhile advice is to buy your bulbs from specialist growers, who will supply strong, plump, healthy specimens and a fabulous array to choose from.