Garden blogging

Learning with Experts – Bulbs for Pots and Borders (1)

In 2015, when Learning with Experts was My Garden School I did a short on-line course about container planting with Harriet Rycroft as the tutor. I learned a lot on that course which I still put into practice. A couple of months ago I signed up for another course, this time it’s Bulbs for Pots and Borders with Andy McIndoe as my tutor. There is always something new to learn when it comes to gardening,

I don’t think Learning with Experts would appreciate me telling you what the lessons and assignments set are, but I’m going post my written assignments (as I did for the 2015 course). Whilst Andy McIndoe critiques by assignments with very useful advice, I’m always happy for any comments you’d like to make.

Assignment 1 – Introduction to Flower bulbs

Now is the exciting time of year when we are inundated with bulb catalogues. Sarah Raven’s catalogue is like entering a sweet shop with tantalising pictures of how beautiful your garden will look in the spring. J.Parker’s is more utilitarian with small photos crammed on to a page, not nearly as enticing. I have noticed bulbs appearing in garden centres and stores like Wilko and the Range. 

From past experience both personal and from friends, it is not always the prettiest pictures and most expensive bulbs that are the best. I have had great success with bulbs from Wilko when friends have had disappointing results from well known names. 

My most favourite tulip is the frilly edged gold and dark orange ‘Bastia’. I found it in my local garden centre in 2016 – it’s a marmite tulip, you love it or hate it. Last year I couldn’t locate it anywhere so was delighted to eventually find it in a garden centre when visiting family in Guernsey.

‘Angelique’ seems to be growing in popularity. It is a double flowering late peony style tulip, blousy and a ‘Hello I’m Here’ tulip. I grow it in pots with Spring Green or yellow ‘Sweetheart’ because I like the contrast. 

Tulip bulbs vary in price and in the numbers you can buy them, which can be deceptive. Sarah Raven offers Angelique in a pack of 15 for £8.50, (0.57p per bulb), you can buy a pack of 10 from J Parker’s at £5.99 (0.59p per bulb) whereas on the Crocus website you can find them at 10 for £4.99 – the cost of postage and packaging varies considerably. As I am only going to be planting in containers, I won’t be needing more than about 10-15 bulbs. 

With regard to narcissi, in my old garden along with Narcissi ‘Abba’ which looks remarkably like ‘Bride’,  ‘Rip van Winkle’ and ‘Winston Churchill’ I used to grow ‘Thalia Triandus’ a double headed flower with a fragrance to knock your socks off. Personally I prefer to go to a garden centre and choose my daffodil and narcissi bulbs from the pick and mix troughs to ensure they are a good size and not soft. However, it’s always like Christmas to receive a big box of bulbs ordered on line or through a catalogue.

This year in April I moved from a good sized garden to a flat with a patio so I will be concentrating on container planting only. I am going to plan my spring patio display to create ‘In Your Face, it’s Spring’ colour schemes for people to enjoy as they pass my flat, which faces the front of the building. My tulips will probably consist of Bastia, Angelique or La Belle Époque, Spring Green and striking standard tulips such as Menton, Ronaldo and Queen of the Night. My must have narcissi will be my old favourites, Thalia, Rip Van Winkle and Abba along with new ones I’ve not grown before.

Perfume and colour will be the order of the day.

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