It is at this time of the year I begin planning the garden for the next. Obviously I am still enjoying this season too. My Amelanchier lamarkii is on fire with red, orange and yellow autumn leaves, there are still flowers in bloom and it is now that the grasses really show their value. However, I am also evaluating this year’s planting in the garden to see how it could be enhanced. There are several things I will be changing for next year. The colour scheme was a little unbalanced and I would like a few more textural foliage plants. One thing I will be doing this weekend is adding some bulbs.
Bulbs are a brilliantly cheap way of adding a lot of cheery colour to a garden. As you know, I am big on supporting our wildlife, so bulbs are important to me as they can also make a massive difference for them too. If you plan it right you can have flowers throughout the year providing a rich source of essential nectar for our pollinating insects.
Right now, in autumn, there are the Nerine bowdenii, Bowden Cornish Lily, with their lovely cerise pink lily flowers, the golden daffodil like flowers of Sternbergia and the breathtakingly gorgeous Cyclamen. All of the above can rejuvenate a garden just as the summer flowers are fading away.
We very rarely have a white Christmas these days, unless you plant a mass of snowdrops. There are many hundreds of varieties of this dainty elegant flower to choose from. There is nothing better to brighten up January than snowdrops planted en masse. If you are after a bit more colour then maybe try planting them with the winter aconite, the woodland member of the buttercup family. That would give you a splash of yellow while also providing early bumblebees with a good food source if they venture out of their hibernation holes for a midwinter snack.
For late winter into early spring there are several flowering bulbs to choose from. The deep blue irises, the purple and yellow crocuses and the bluebell-like grape hyacinth would lift the spirits of any gardener looking forward to spring. Grape hyacinth is one of the plants I am adding to a garden I am working on at the moment. It can be a bit of a bully in the garden so you do need to be careful where you place it. I am putting them underneath a tree in the corner of the garden. They are fantastic for bees and other insects. I will also be planting some Narcissus varieties amongst them which will take us into April and May.
Daffodils are an obvious choice for spring. There are hundreds to choose from but I personally prefer the more dainty scented smaller varieties. Whether you are after the deep yellow, white or a mixture of the two, there are too many to name or describe here. One thing I will say, is try to stay away from the double flowered daffs. Double flowered varieties of any plant in fact. These plants have been selectively bred over generations to do away with the central reproductive flowering parts for extra petals. They may look pretty to the eye and they will draw in the bees and the butterflies, but they will not find any food amongst these ‘fake’ flowers. Stick to the single flowers; you will still enjoy them and the so will the pollinators too! If your garden is in the shade then try Lily of the Valley. Not only will they reward you with deep green foliage and a wonderful white flower, they will also flood your garden with an intoxicating aroma that will send your head spinning.
June is the time for the Alliums. From the giant pom-pom flowers of Allium Gladiator to the smaller elegant Allium sphaerocephalon; no garden should be without them (unless you are in shade as they do like a bit of sun). Plant them throughout the borders and add a bit of drama to the garden in June.
That should do for now. I will talk about the summer bulbs in spring, as that is the best time to plant them. This list should be more than enough inspiration for the garden right now. So when you are wandering around the garden centres looking for your Christmas trees and decorations, why not take a look at the bulb collections and decorate your gardens too!