As a gardener it was most glorious to see and hear rain arrive last week.
It was good, soft rain that has soaked well into the soil.
It has bought relief to many plants and gardens.
The 40-50mm that we received is a good basis for the arrival of more rain.
Irrigating is still necessary on lighter soils so keep an eye on soil moisture levels around your place.
Cooler temperatures are now noticeable in the morning, indicating autumn is just around the corner.
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Now is the time for selecting and planting spring flowering bulbs which are now in stores.
Growing bulbs is generally pretty easy and requires little more than some forward planning. To have a spring flowering bulb display, one must be buying and planting bulbs now.
One of my favourite sights is that of flowering daffodils.
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This is synonymous with the end of winter and the start of spring. It conjures up a feeling of fresh air and the hope of warmer temperatures, new growth and sunshine!
You can have this at your house by planting your own bulbs. There are many options other than daffodils that can be planted, so here is some information on a few of them.
Call into the garden centre to check out all the types available and you can view all the pictures on the packets.
Often by the time later planting varieties such as tulips have arrived into store the first varieties of freesias have sold out so several trips is highly recommended.
Freesia: These bulbs are favourites of many people producing outstanding blooms in colours of rose, red, yellow, blue and white on stems of 30-50cm high. They often benefit from some support to keep the stems upright. Many of the varieties are fragrant with a delicious sweet scent.
Also known as windflowers, or Saint Brigids Anemones as these cheerful flowers are traditionally called, brighten the florists' windows during the winter to late spring months. They are particularly striking as a cut flower for a table decoration. They can be planted now at a depth of 3-4cm and 6-8cm apart in a sun or part shade position in soil that is cool and moist. Anemone "de caen mixed" provide a brilliant display in reds, rose, lavender, blue, white etc. An application of bulb fertiliser when planting helps improve flowering and growth. Also available in single colours.
Ranunculus: They grow well outdoors with anemones in a well composted soil and come in a variety of bright colours including red, mahogany, gold, white, orange and salmon.
Ixias: These are delightful South African bulbs and are amongst the showiest of spring flowering plants. A colour mix of cerise red, yellow, pink, cream and rose flower profusely on 30-40cm wiry stems. They are best planted in a drier, sunnier position with good drainage. Plant in well worked soil 4-5cm deep and 6-8cm apart. As the tops develop, water freely until the flowers have faded. After flowering allow the bulbs to dry off as one would freesias before lifting and storing them for the summer months.
Grape Hyacinth – Muscari: Traditionally only available in a rich cobalt blue, on 10-15cm stems. This year, however, we also have a white variety available in store now. Muscari are quite hardy and tolerant to most conditions in the garden. For a bold effect, plant in stand alone clumps or as a group in a border. Plant 3-5cm deep and 4-5cm apart in well worked soil. To keep the bulbs grouped they can be planted in large pots or a bowl placed just below the soil surface. Fertilise each year using Tui Bulb Fertiliser.
Dutch Iris: They are a hardy and easy to grow bulb that produce excellent flowers in late spring that are valued as a cut flower. They bloom after daffodils and tulips have finished and prefer a sunny well drained position. Plant 6-8cm deep, 12-15cm apart in well prepared soil.
Iris Reticulata: This is a stunning miniature iris. They are versatile and can be planted in pots and tubs for patio display, rockeries or garden borders as a bold clump. Position in full sun and plant in free draining soil. Plant 3-5cm deep and 4-6cm apart, applying bulb fertiliser as with all bulbs will improve the results!
Crocus: They are said to "herald the coming of spring" being a hardy early spring flowering bulb. They grow well in shady cool spots or under deciduous trees in bold groups. They make a great show when grown in bowls. For best results from planting in containers use a good bulb potting mix and place in a cool shady spot until shoots appear and then bring them inside or close to the house as they start to flower.
Daffodils in containers
Daffodils are highly valued for the bold splashes of colour and fragrance they bring to the garden in late winter and spring. Many daffodils are especially suitable for naturalising in grass areas.
They are among the easiest and most rewarding bulbs to grow.
Daffodils grow well in pots if they are deep enough to allow the bulb to be covered to 1½ times their own depth. They grow well in full sun or semi shade and respond to liquid feeds such as Yates Thrive Liquid or Ican Fast Food when buds appear. They are popular for clump planting to combine with other spring annual flowers such as alyssum, nemesias, pansy, viola, polyanthus etc.
They are excellent for growing in tubs, pots or troughs outdoors or for bowls indoors, particularly the miniature varieties or "rockery" daffodils. Daffodil bulbs in containers can be planted closer together than in a garden situation and perform very successfully.
Daffodils in the garden
Daffodils are valuable for both formal bedding and to provide early seasonal interest in the mixed garden border.
They are one of the most reliable bulbs for naturalising and rarely need to be lifted from borders or grass.
They grow in virtually any moist slightly alkaline soils in a sun or light dappled shade position. Plant the bulbs about 4-6cm deep during late summer and autumn.
When bulbs are naturalised in grass allow the old foliage to die back each year before mowing.
Use bulb food when planting at 200gms (2/3 cup approx) per square metre and apply a side dressing of 100gms (1/3cup approx) per square metre when the flower stems begin to show.
Always water the fertiliser in well. Unlike hyacinths and tulips, daffodil bulbs do not require the chilling or placing in the fridge to stimulate growth and flowering prior to planting out.
Don't lose them!
When growing bulbs in the garden they can sometimes be forgotten about during the summer months when they are dormant and one has to be careful not to dig them up!
To keep bulbs grouped they can be planted in bulb baskets.
These are open (and cheap) plastic baskets that come in a range of sizes and can be used year after year.
These baskets can be placed in the ground with the basket rim just below the soil surface.
The bulbs should be placed at the appropriate planting depth in the parameters of the basket.
These are a great way to keep control of your bulbs.
Have a great week.
•Gareth Carter is General Manager of Springvale Garden Centre