Check bulbs, but beware of allergies

Exhibits at Alnwick Spring Bulb Show. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

Exhibits at Alnwick Spring Bulb Show. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

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Once forced container bulbs have been stored to encourage roots, thoughts turn to straight-forward outdoor types. With a little planning these can offer continuity of bloom over many weeks.

Displays begin before January ends with yellow winter aconites (eranthis) . Snowdrop flowers follow, surrounded by daffodil shoots that refuse to bud-up and bloom until conditions are suitable. But their presence is enough to raise hope.

Several bulbs contain elements that may cause an allergic reaction, notably narcissus, snowdrop, iris, scilla and colchicum.

Dwarf irises reticulata and danfordiae play a similar waiting game as the early crocuses flower. Then it’s a free for all as muscari, chionodoxa, scilla, cyclamen, puschkinia, et al join in. This is followed by the big guns of spring as daffodils and tulips take centre stage.

A visit to Heighley Gate, Morpeth, revealed the outstanding bulb displays. Many are offered in handy packages, some on a pick-and-mix basis.

A supply of three litre, yellow pots stand next to boxes of daffodils, with the message, “Fill a pot of daffodils for Marie Curie, £4.99”. Ten per cent of every purchase goes to the charity.

Just a note of caution on selecting bulbs. Do check them top and bottom for soundness and whether they are too light for their size. The tip of a green shoot just emerging is not a bad sign.

If possible protect your hands with polythene gloves, or improvise with a paper bag, because several bulbs contain elements that may cause an allergic reaction, notably narcissus, snowdrop, iris, scilla and colchicum.

If there are no spring bulbs in your garden, the Alnwick Show on Saturday, April 8 will compensate.

Co-ordinator Gill Starkey advises exhibitors to plant early varieties because the event is slightly earlier. The schedule remains more or less the same as 2016.

Novice growers can get a free bulb and growing instructions by visiting gm.starkey@virgin.net