Gardening: autumn is here - time to plan for next year
Now it's officially autumn, we can turn our minds to planning ahead for next year and what better way to do that than by planting new spring bulbs?
I'm concentrating on daffodils and small species tulips, as they don't seem to mind our heavy clay soils – I plant big, showy tulips in containers.
It's hard work planting bulbs – invest in a long-handled bulb planter to save your back. They dig out a circular hole, then the clod of earth inside is pushed out by the next hole, and so on.
Daffodils can be planted now and offer early season scent. Once they're in, they take care of themselves – feed after flowering for the following year's blooms.
Minnow: Cream and yellow flowers. 15-20cm tall and produces two to four dainty little soft yellow flowers per stem. Well known for its ability to increase rapidly. Fragrant. Flowers March/April.
Pacific Coast: A yellow version of Minnow. Fragrant. Height 15-20cm. Flowers March/April.
Sweetness: Jonquil type, bold-shaped cups, golden yellow throughout, up to five flowers per stem. Height 40cm. Very fragrant. Flowers March/April.
Tete a Tete: Dwarf variety with up to three star-shaped flowers per stem, yellow. Ht. 15cm. Flowers February/March.
Sun Disc: Broad, overlapping perianth (flower petal) segments, which fade from buttery yellow to rich cream as they mature, surround a flattened, darker yellow corona. Each stem produces between one and three scented flowers. Height 18cm. Flowers April/May.
Triandrus Thalia: Fragrant single trumpet Narcissus, multi-headed, 30cm, flowers April.
Instead of big tulips which often get battered by our windy weather, try growing their smaller species varieties, hailing from mountainous regions in Central Asia.
They’re extremely tough and can be left in the ground where they will come back year after year, forming good-sized clumps and spreading.
All they need is a sunny spot with reasonably fertile, free-draining soil – add some grit when you plant – some of mine grow in the side of a gravel path.
Plant bulbs in November-December to avoid the risk of the tulip fire virus, 10-15cm deep and 10-15cm apart.
Remove the flowers after they have faded and apply a balanced liquid fertiliser for a month before they die down.
These are my favourites:
Tulipa Little Beauty: Upright bowl-shaped flowers. The hot pink petals often have a green flush on their outer edges, while the inside eye is a mix of creamy white and rich blue, 15cm tall.
Tulipa saxatilis Lilac Wonder: Mauve-pink flowers, with a paler interior and a luminous, well-defined eye, 25cm tall.
Tulipa tarda: Lance-shaped green leaves, which in early to mid-spring are crowned with white-tipped yellow flowers, 15cm tall.
JOBS FOR THE WEEKEND
Take cuttings of tender perennials, such as Pelargoniums (geraniums). If you don’t have a greenhouse, use a light windowsill to grow them on.
Divide any overgrown or tired-looking clumps of alpines and herbaceous perennials, such as Crocosmia. This will invigorate them, and improve flowering and overall shape, for next year.
Continue picking sweetcorn, beans and marrows.
Bring inside tender perennials, such as Fuchsia, Gazania, Lantana and Abutilon.
Some tall late-flowering perennials, such as asters, may still need staking to stop them being blown over in the wind.
Prune late-summer flowering shrubs such as Helianthemum (rock rose) and give evergreen hedges a final trim to make sure they are in shape for winter.
Start to reduce watering of houseplants as light levels drop.
Ventilate conservatoriesduring warmer days but close windows at night.
Continue to remove blanket and duckweed in ponds. Thin out submerged oxygenating plants, as they crowd the pond.