Plan ahead to ensure some new year blooms

There is much to choose from when selecting bulbs. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
There is much to choose from when selecting bulbs. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
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Gardening is all about planning ahead, and choosing bulbs for spring is the subject of the moment.

Even if you don’t visit a garden centre or plant outlet where they’re currently on display, there’s sure to be a catalogue popping through the letterbox or inside your favourite gardening magazine.

Get started now and you could have bowls of bulbs flowering over several weeks.

After years of planting we all still manage to find room for a few more in the garden or a container, and from a competitive point of view, anyone co-ordinating a spring show will be hoping we’re tempted to buy, plant them in good time and have the courage to exhibit.

Now is the time to plant a range of bulbs in containers for flowering indoors at the turn of the year.

I’m drawn to dwarf varieties of narcissi and iris, which along with crocus, need no support when in bloom.

But for something spectacular add the tall multi-headed daffodils Paper White and Grand Soleil d’Or, plus the hyacinth of your choice.

These three do need support when flowering, and shrubby spiraea twigs are ideal. The payback is a stunning visual treat and fragrance that fills the room.

If you opt for a pot without drainage holes use bulb fibre.

Potting compost is the best choice for containers with a drainage facility.

If a large pot is available, try a triple layer planting of narcissi.

Half fill with compost and push the first lot gently into it, cover with medium, then repeat for a second and third layer. They’ll all find their way to the light and burst into bloom.

Try experimenting with a combination of daffodils, crocus or iris in the same pot.

Each of these containerised bulbs needs to spend a period in cool, dark conditions to encourage root growth. I find this varies.

Six weeks is adequate for the iris, crocus and narcissi, but hyacinths need around 10.

Shoots will eventually appear on all and these need a gradual weaning into full light.

Naturally, we want these beauties to be seen indoors eventually. When this does happen offer them maximum light in the coolest room possible to prolong the flowering period.

Get started now and you could have bowls of bulbs flowering over several weeks.

Dwarf narcissi bloom outdoors before their taller counterparts and are also ideal for containers so plant some in pots.

Hyacinths are most popular, and although bulbs that have been specially prepared for forcing cost more, they are the best bet if you’re after flowering over Christmas.

Leave the tips showing after planting and put them into cold, dark storage alongside others.

Continuity of bloom comes when these bulbs are retrieved in small batches over time and offered modest warmth and light.