Think autumn - think spring bulbs

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WITH a definite autumn feel to the weather, this year’s garden is coming to an end but because of that it is time to think of next year!

Spring is a great time in the garden, with new growth and colour everywhere and what better to provide the latter than bulbs. Colour in spring and subsequent years is so easy. Once planted bulbs will go on rewarding year after year and not is the time to get them in.

If they are to go where there are still summer plants then these will have to be discarded to that the bulbs can get started – some of the earliest are going to be in flower in five to six months. Tulips can be left until November but everything else has to go in now.

There is a race between snowdrops and the golden yellow aconites (eranthus) to see which will be in flower first – normally it’s a draw!

Crocuses come in single colours – white, yellow and purple, but the bicoloured are special, such as Ard Schenk, white with a yellow centre; Romance, yellow with outer petals white; Prins Claus, white and purple; and King of the Striped, purple/white.

The flowers are star-shaped, six-petalled, upward-facing and in blue mixes – that’s chionodoxa, also known as Glory of the Snow as they can often be in bloom among the white stuff. A particularly dainty variety is C. Forbesii in sky-blue with a white centre. These are miniature at only some four to six inches in height and so, too, are scilla, also blue but with drooping heads.

Hyacinth bulbs are popular potted up in bowls for early indoor decoration, their flower spikes giving off a fragrance and they can also be used outside for a spring display. There are two types of bulbs: those for early forcing and the smaller-sized (and cheaper) outdoor ones. Be careful to pick the correct type. The outdoor ones (like tulips) are best lifted after flowering, cleaned and stored over the summer and planted each autumn.

For a late spring show there is the wide range of alliums, with dwarf varieties for the rockery to the tall ones for the border and among shrubs. Their heads comprise clusters of miniature flowers and make a striking addition to the ornamental garden.