Forget Crummy Crocus, Dazzling Daffs and Tarty Tulips, Try Something New.
NOW that September is here it’s the perfect time to go out and buy spring bulbs. The nurseries and garden centres are already bursting with daffodils, crocus and tulips, all of them are great in their own way but this year why not try something different.
Top of our list is the snake’s head fritillary, Fritallaria meleagris. This has a wonderful chequered purple and white, bell-shaped flower and looks exquisite if planted in lawns or under trees. It flowers from March to May and is happiest in damp soils. Another fritillary, the crown imperial (Fritillaria imperialis) also looks spectacular in the spring, with intense orange flowers on top of a long stem, ‘crowned with leaves’. Try this under-planted with scillas or forget-me-nots for a dramatic display. The variety ‘Aureomarginata’ has gold edged leaves with stunning red flowers, ‘Maxima lutea’ has stunning yellow flowers and ‘Sulphurino’ has dazzling orange flowers.
Another great favourite is Allium christophii which is a large headed mauve allium. You do need to give it plenty of space as the heads can be up to 25cm in diameter but they do look elegant and classy in any border, especially amongst ornamental grasses. Irises are also good performers, try the delicately blue miniature iris or the more showy Iris reticulata.
Scillas are one of my most favourite of all spring bulbs and they can look great in the borders. They are like little blue stars shining out at you. Try either the classic Scilla siberica, with it’s intense blue colour or the more unusual Scilla peruviana which has much larger blue flowers and is more dramatic in bud.
For a woody, moist area, try the Indian Hellebore or Veratrum album. This is quite an unusual bulb which has spikes of white flowers in late summer. Trilliums are also underused and are great little woodland plants. Another gem is Uvularia grandiflora, a dainty plant with droopey heads of yellow flowers in the spring.
For dry shade try cyclamen coum, which have silver-edged leaves and pinky/purple flowers which do well when planted under trees.
Others to consider; Ornithogalum newtans, lovely white star shaped flowers on spikes in spring and the lovely Gladiolus byzantinus which has fabulous magenta flowers.
When you are choosing bulbs, you need to bear in mind a few things. First of all make sure they are nice and firm and not soft. Second, make sure that they are healthy and not covered in mould, or damaged or shrivelled and lastly give them a sniff, if they smell a bit musty then give them a miss. So plump and firm is perfect.
Bulbs are one of the easiest plants to grow in the garden and can be planted anytime from September to December. They just need a reasonably free draining soil and a bit of sun. You can even plant them under trees. As a general rule plant them 3 times their depth and around 2 times their depth apart, facing up and make sure the soil is firmed back around them to stop any air spaces. If squirrels are a problem lay chicken wire over the soil until the bulbs come up.
It is always a good idea to plant bulbs in groups for a greater impact. But if you want a natural look, especially when planting daffs in lawns, turn around and throw them over your shoulder and plant them where they land.
Other jobs to do in September ;
Keep dead heading your perennials and bedding plants to prolong flowering. If you haven’t already done so trim back the flowering stems of lavenders to keep them in shape.
Watch out for diseases. The weather has started to turn very humid which means that certain fungal diseases such as black spot on roses and potato and tomato blight will start to become more prevalent. Pick off infected leaves as soon as you see them, try to increase ventilation, avoid watering at night and try to only water the soil and not the foliage.
Continue to harvest your vegetables, potatoes, sweetcorn, runner beans and tomatoes. If, god forbid, there are any light frosts at the end of the month, cover your outdoor tomatoes with fleece for protection and don’t forget to keep feeding them with tomato feed. Don’t forget keep picking runner beans, ideally when they are young and not stringy, to keep encouraging continued cropping.
Did You Know?: Chinese Wisteria will grow anti-clock-wise and Japanese Wisteria grow clockwise.
Saying of the Month: “A late summer garden has a tranquility found no other time of the year.”