Plants and bulbs the focus for next season

Allium Purple Sensation.
Allium Purple Sensation.

As well as clearing away the last remnants of one season, work now turns to preparing for the next with spring-flowering plants and bulbs.

Tulips are planted in November so the emphasis at the moment is on getting all other bulb types into the ground, but what is equally important is getting plants into beds, borders and containers so that they get established before the onset of winter.

Pansies and violas are very popular, giving instant colour and until much colder weather comes will continue to flower. Both of these really come into their own in the spring when the weather starts to improve, putting on growth and swathes of colour which will last right through until it is time for summer bedding.

Polyanthus are also popular and though not in bloom at the moment, by the spring they will provide a welcome colour after the drab days of winter. Pansies and violas will last longer, making them the first choice for many people.

Bulbs certainly deserving to be among those chosen for spring colour are alliums. They are in the same family as onions, chives, garlic, shallots and leeks – hence they are often termed ornamental onions.

Plant where they will get full sun and in well-drained soil and there should be no problem getting a good display. Planting depth is three times the height of the bulb with flowering around Common-Riding time. They are widely chosen by show garden designers at Chelsea.

The showy globular flower heads come in various shades of violet and purple and are at home in a herbaceous or mixed border and between shrubs. Even when the flowers have gone over, the seed heads are attractive and can be cut and dried for indoor decoration. One of the best varieties is Purple Sensation with a large head of violet-purple on stems 36 inches tall.

For the rockery, they may only be between four and six inches in height but the dainty iris makes a striking addition for spring. They would even look good in a small container. There are two types of iris – danfordiae which is a yellow, and renticulata, the variety Harmony a blue with a blotch of yellow on the lip.

A well-drained, light soil is essential as too wet and the blubs can rot. They thrive in full sun and are best lifted after the foliage has died down and stored until planting time in the autumn.