Woo hoo my big bulb order has arrived! I've felt a bit bereft the past couple of years as I haven't been able to indulge my passion for bulbs as my borders are full and the opportunities for Guerrilla Gardening them nearby are becoming more limited too. However, a change in my winter pots strategy has enabled me to order a satisfyingly large boxful this year.
Being a gardener of the lazy sort, I haven't really done that much with tulips so far. Just a sprinkling of species tulips here and there, plus contrasting dark T. 'Queen of Night' and T. 'Purissima' in the mirror beds in the front garden. These I feel are safe enough to leave from year to year and look stunning. It's the idea of the autumn planting followed by early summer lifting that's put me off from planting more - much as I love the form and beauty of the flower, that's just too much of a faff for me.
However, I've made the decision not to f**t around with fiddly little pots of pansies this year. Each autumn I've planted up dozens of them once the summer plants are going over (am I the only person who apologises to her half flowering plants as she adds them to the compost bin?) and replaced them with the large flowered pansies. For a month or two they're fine, then with the first hint of frost or wet weather, they either go into a non-flowering sulk, or get an attack of mildew. Or both. There they sit flaccidly until the spring, when the warmer weather coaxes them into a last flowering flourish for a month until it's time to plant the pots up ready for summer. But in the intervening few months they've been a bit of a damp squib and I've also come to realise that I don't really look at that part of the garden that much during the winter anyway.
So my strategy this year was to plant up lots of lovely Cyclamen in my little pots in September. Most of these will go over about November, but by then I will have had a good couple of months of their beauty. The ones right by the house manage to survive and flower right through until March, so these will stay. Last year I was bowled over by Sarah Eberle's large pots of a single flower (marigolds in her case) in her Best in Show winning garden at Chelsea, so I bought two of the largest Mayan pots I could find to do something similar. These are sited just outside the kitchen and lounge patio doors and have been filled with a succession of Tagetes, primroses and bedding Dahlias thus far. This year I've bought armfuls of little Violas - these have been very successful in the hanging basket by the front door in the past and it's great to have something that not only looks good throughout the winter (they don't seem to have the same problems as their larger cousins and flower their socks off for months), but is scented too. These will be clearly visible from the house and will be just enough to brighten the winter view out of the window into the back garden. And if I do venture outside, I can enjoy their delicious scent as I step out of the door.
In the meantime, my little pots will be filled with tulips and placed on standby in the nursery area ready to be brought out when the time is right and I'm working more frequently in the garden again. Once their flowering is over, it'll be very easy to clean them up and put into storage for next autumn without the bother of all that lifting. So I will have the pleasure of planting up a multitude of pots with T. 'Ballerina', 'Praestans' 'Red Riding Hood', 'Rembrandt' 'Spring Green' and mixed 'Viridiflora' next month - totalling nearly 200 bulbs.
Thus in the dying days of the year, the hopes and dreams for next year's garden are started.