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September: Planning for Spring in Autumn

Spring flowering bulbs have been available in shops and garden centres for some weeks now. With their vivid pictures of promise for next spring. Always aim to plant daffodils and narcissi early as possible, preferably before the end of October so that their roots start to grow in the warm moist soil, feeding the bulb and its embryo flowers before winter. Late planting may cause flowers to abort.

Daffodils make a dramatic impact if planted in drifts such as we have on the roadside in front of our garden centre and around the pool area at the rear. If this is the effect you would like to create, daffodils can be purchased in large 25kg bags of mixed or separate named varieties.

Always buy as soon as you can and when you get them home open up the bag and spread them out on newspaper in the garden shed or garage so that they do not sweat and go rotten in the bag. At the same time check them for signs of any disease such as mould and soft rot.

The bulbs should be firm and hard like a tennis ball or onion. If in any doubt do not plant them, in doing so you will surely spread disease. Return the bulbs to the store where you bought them, as they will need to know that they may have a problem with the remainder of the stock. It is much better to do this than plant them with all the hard work it entails and be disappointed with a poor show next spring. When planting in grass, it is worth bearing in mind that once Daffodils have flowered, they will have to remain uncut for at least six to seven weeks to allow the food generated in the leaves to return to the bulb to create the flower bud for the following spring.

The most likely cause for naturalised bulbs not to flower is that the leaves have been bent over or cut off whilst still growing. In my experience daffodils once planted are best left alone and not lifted. If they are planted in a border, plant in groups of six or more, quite close together, in doing so you will create a bold display.

Be sure to mark them in some way, such as in front of a large rock or group of stones, so that you are reminded not to dig them up once the flowers and foliage have died down.

There are many dwarf and miniature flowering types of Daffodils that look exceptionally good in the rockery, tubs or raised flower beds, the most popular early flowering variety being the multi-headed daffodil Tete a Tete, again plant in groups for maximum effect. As a general rule, the planting depth for any bulb is to plant two to three times its own depth.

It is always better to plant too deep that too shallow. If your soil is heavy clay, make the hole a little deeper, place a handful of sharp horticultural grit in it, sit the bulb on this and fill on the hole.

This will improve drainage, preventing water logging that could damage the roots causing the bulb to die. It is worth remembering to feed daffodils with a liquid general fertiliser when the flowers begin to fade.

Winter Flowering Pansy

With autumn now upon us it is time to plant your winter pansy, as always it is important to select the best plants, avoid those that have become long and fall over and those where the foliage is light green to yellow looking.

Check also for black spots on the leaves, and also for any signs of mildew as these diseases will spread if weather conditions (mild and damp) are just right. Choose those plants that have the first flower showing with bright green foliage. Plant in groups of single colours with plants approximately 8” apart for the best effect.

Pansy is such a versatile plant giving colour for over 30 weeks of the year October – May. Use in mixed tubs, window boxes and hanging baskets. Winter hanging baskets are becoming increasingly popular, planted now they will give colour and interest throughout the autumn, winter and spring months. Planted with small shrubs, herbs, grasses, viola and pansy with some ivy to trail, you create an ever-changing display.

Because of the short days, perhaps cold and wet, it is easy to forget your baskets and planters. Try to set a little time aside at the weekend to keep them tidy and watered, cutting back and removing any dead material. Come the spring as they start to grow add some liquid feed every time you water.