There is nothing like a spot of digging to get a bit of frustration out of your system. Heavy, rhythmic work is excellent at regulating your emotional state. Work like digging or pushing a wheelbarrow help us to feel where we are in space, ground ourselves, and feel calm and alert.
I cleared my cutting patch, which gave me space to plant spring bulbs.
Planting spring bulbs is one of the best ways to prepare for winter. There is something very therapeutic and nurturing about looking ahead to spring. You know that in the darkest days of winter there are some tender little shoots slowly making their way up to the surface. There will be a happy day in February when you walk from your front door and you spot a few little nubs, poking their noses out of the frozen ground. You have brought them into being. Then you know that you have made it, and spring is just around the corner.
Now. I try to have a calm, organised approach to buying spring bulbs.
Then it all goes to pot when the catalogues start landing on my doormat.
I held my nerve with the Sarah Raven catalogue. This is the horticultural equivalent of the Boden catalogue. You know it is over-priced and you can’t afford it, but it’s just so beautiful. But I did well, only ordering the ‘Dutch Yard Tulip Collection’.
With JParkers Wholesale, I sensibly selected five tulip varieties to share with my mum.
I should have stopped there.
But I had a little clicking accident with Gee Tee Bulbs. I don’t want to say how many bulbs I bought for my cutting patch.
This is how I SHOULD buy bulbs.
- Find my scribbled notes I made in May when the bulbs were out.
- Refer back to A Perfect Day at Great Dixter and A Profusion of Pots at Perch Hill in order to remember my favourites.
- Think about the areas in my garden and plan colour schemes accordingly.
- Scale that back when I see how many bulbs I have in my basket.
- Make a board on Pinterest to remind myself of the plan for when the order arrives!
I managed the last item on the list.
Now I have a bewildering mix of bulbs in boxes from various companies. And a slightly guilty conscience.
Where am I going to put them all???
I have indecipherable notes on my phone and a list in a notebook I can’t find any more. But Pinterest saves the day!
Clearing the beds was surprisingly easy. The oldest bed needed a good dig to loosen the soil. I mixed in some fresh compost and some grit to improve the drainage. The other two beds had a good load of well-rotted manure last year. This was just placed on top of upside-down turves of grass removed from the meadow. The turves have now rotted down to make light, crumbly soil.
Then it was time for the fun bit!
For tulips and daffodils, I dig a trench or hole of about a spade’s depth. If the soil is heavy clay, it’s good to lighten it with a bit of added compost, or with horticultural grit, which improves drainage. If I’m planting in pots, I tend to go about half-and-half with multipurpose compost and grit.
For smaller bulbs you don’t need to plant so deeply. Twice the depth of the bulb is a good rule-of-thumb.
In a pot, you can plant layers of big bulbs at the bottom and middle of the pot, and smaller bulbs near the top. That way you have a longer display, with crocuses appearing in February or March, and Narcissi or tulips following on.
Loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole, and add compost or grit if you are using it, then plant your bulbs pointy end up. In pots you can plant quite densely, leaving only a space the size of the bulb between bulbs. In a bigger bed like this, I probably leave twice that amount of space between the bulbs.
If you plant nice and deeply, you will be able to plant annuals or perennials on top and the bulbs can just stay in place from one year to the next. I don’t lift my bulbs after flowering. Life’s too short, and I will get the varieties all jumbled.
Snowdrops, crocuses and narcissi (daffodils) come back every year, with clumps getting bigger and bigger.
Tulips tend to be fab the first year, so-so the second, and a bit few-and-far-between the third year. This is just the way of the tulip. I forgive it because it is just soooo beautiful.
You can plant single varieties together, or you can combine them (I do a bit of both).
For maximum fun, you can try giving your planting scheme a name. Like ‘Vampire Weekend’: darkest ‘Black Parrot’, crimson silk ‘Antraciet’, and the white and scarlet-veined ‘Carnaval de Nice’. Or ‘Plunge Pool’: shivery ‘Blue Diamond’ and ‘Jacuzzi’ with the rosy blush of ‘Hotpants’ and ‘Ollioulles’.
If you are really organised, you can interplant your tulips with the wallflowers you grew from seed in May and are now ready to plant out! [dum-de-dum, chewing fingernails, thinking about packets of seed in kitchen drawer not sown in May].
Snuggle your little babies up in their compost blanket; tuck them in; sing them a little lullaby. Make a cup of tea. Wait for spring!
If you want a sneak preview, this is what my Pinterest pages look like…
If you would like to join me in cosying up for the winter and looking ahead to spring, then click on the big ‘Follow’ button at the bottom of the page. I aim to deliver a little pop of natural wonder to your inbox three times a week.