It may still be the height of summer, but it is time to start thinking about spring. Over the next few weeks bulbs will start appearing in garden centres and nurseries and, if you want to have the widest choice of flowers, then you have to be ready to buy them the moment they appear.
Kathleen McIndoe of The Mill Garden Centre in Armadale says that bulbs bought now should be stored in a cool, dry place until you are ready to plant them.
“When you remove summer bedding you can then pop your daffodil bulbs into the space left vacant,” she says.
Tulips, on the other hand, are best planted in November or December when they are less likely to contract soil-borne diseases.
In a small garden, dwarf varieties of narcissi such a ‘Tete-a-tete’ will give scent and colour without taking up much space and their dying foliage will also be less intrusive.
“Small daffodils and dwarf tulips are especially useful in exposed gardens because they are much less likely to be flattened by the wind,” says Kathleen.
As well as familiar spring favourites such as muscari (Grape hyacinth), and crocus, Kathleen also recommends that gardeners try growing Erythornium dens canis (dog’s tooth violet) and trilliums, both of which are woodland plants that can be planted in autumn for spring flowers.
Spring flowers are essential for bees and other insects which may come out of hibernation during early warm spells and find that there are few flowering plants to feed from.
Other bulbs that will add life and colour to your garden in spring include many of the fritillaries, including Fritillaria meleagris (snake’shead fritillary), Leucojum vernum (spring snowflake) and Scilla siberica, which produces bright blue flowers and relish semi-shaded conditions.
As well as buying and planting bulbs, August is a time to be getting on with the following garden tasks:
1. Plant potatoes now for a Christmas crop, growing them in sacks or very large pots, using two tubers per pot and covering them with 10cm of compost. 2. As the shoots emerge, earth-up, water well and add a handful of potato fertiliser to the pots.
3. Collect seed from perennials, sowing hellebores and foxgloves as soon as the seed ripens.
4. Water camellias regularly to help with the formation of next year's flowers. The buds form at the tips of shoots but can be lost if they plants dry out.
5. Remove and destroy pelargonium leaves affected by rust and water plants from below to reduce the chance of the disease spreading to heathy foliage.
6. Water plants in containers daily during hot spells and feed weekly. Deadhead regularly to keep fresh flowers appearing.