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a year in a small urban garden (2): planting bulbs

Posted Oct 04 2010 12:00am

Tomorrow, readers, I have something very exciting to share with you.  Well I think it’s exciting, I hope you will too.  I will be looking for feedback.  You have been warned!

In the meantime, Ma Yogini ’s back and this month she’s planting bulbs!

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Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

Yes, we have had some mellow days (the walls came into their own then, sheltering us from one or two autumnal blasts and enabling a few al fresco lunches) and the proliferation of plums, gages and other autumn fruits on the market stalls suggests fruitfulness too.  Other things have not done so well.  A Guardian (UK Newspaper) staffer thought ‘season of unripe tomatoes, bitter blackberries and tiny conkers’ better described this year and there was some concern about a suitable supply of nuts for the World Conker Championships.  I have heard no more about this ridiculous event!  With shorter days and colder weather, it is time to tidy up the garden, clear away dead matter and sweep leaves.  All go to make excellent compost if you have space; into the green bin if not.

Yes, well all that horticultural house- keeping is a bit dull so let us proceed at once to providing some cheerful colour to lift our spirits in the winter months. A recent visit to Wakehurst in West Sussex inspired the first idea. (Wakehurst, by the way, is an offshoot of the famous Kew Gardens and where the seed bank is stored – well worth visiting.) Swathes of tiny hardy cyclamen were planted beneath trees in a spectacularly extravagant display of pink.  Here is a more modest effort but just as pretty.

Cyclamen hederefolium – good in pots (stunning in black containers) or in the ground where they will self-seed and spread if space allows.

I also planted a pot of pansies

For this you need a nice container with some broken crocks at the bottom for drainage…

and some good quality potting compost.  This one ticks all the boxes….

(OK, you see a plastic bag.  Well show me compost not in a bag and I’ll show you a hen’s tooth.  Anyway, I plan a useful afterlife for that bag.)

If the roots of the plants, as here, are a bit compacted, shake them out a bit and plant firmly into the compost.

Where are the songs of spring?

Well here, actually, for these little brown bags of promise will, come April, sing loud and long with their wonderfully vibrant colour.  Plant them as above, following packet instructions, cover the tips with 15 cms of compost and wait!  Remember to water and protect your pot from very severe weather if it comes.

Botanical Tulip Red Riding Hood – height 11 cms

Now is also a good time to plant bulbs for indoors.  The method is the same but leave just the tip of the bulb showing. They need to be kept in a cool dark place covered with a sheet of brown paper for about six weeks to get a good root structure.  When you bring them out they still need to be kept cool until about to flower.  Check regularly to see they do not dry out. Bowls of hyacinths, the smaller narcissi, snowdrops and crocus make lovely Christmas presents but remember this is an amateur operation and Christmas flowering cannot be guaranteed!! Possibly plant a bit later for January flowering – no-one wants a pot of fading leaves.

If winter comes, can spring be far behind?

with thanks to Pa Yogini for the photos which he took on his Blackberry, which I suppose explains why some of them were so much smaller than others.  Gone are the days of one item for one purpose.

I digress – go outside, plant things, have fun!

(if you live in the UK you might want to plant the bulbs in pots inside as the rain it raineth.  STILL)

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