Well, your rain dances or prayers for rain which I requested in my last Green Thumbs column worked. What a turnaround in a month!
Moist soil and more pleasant autumn daytime temperatures stimulate gardeners to begin planning for next spring’s garden colour. Plants which grow from bulbs (or corms or tubers) planted in autumn are great because they require little or no maintenance. They appear from nothing in late winter/early spring and surprise us with masses of colour in a short time. Many of these plant species are tough and can be grown successfully in shaded garden beds, rockeries, as borders and in all sorts of pots and containers.
Gladioli, Hyacinth, Lilium, Daffodils, Ranunculus, Tulips, Freesias, Iris and Jonquils are ones we all know well, but I thought I would discuss two other bulb based plants that are less widely known but which produce beautiful colour from massed plantings at a time of year when there is not much other colour in the garden-crocus and nerine.
Crocus can be autumn or early spring flowering. Dutch crocus produce goblet shaped flowers in early spring on thin stems of about 15cm. They come in a range of colours including purple, blue, white and yellow. The flowers usually appear before any foliage, which is grass like. The bulbs will multiply and form clumps over several years which look great when flowering.
Nerines are autumn flowering bulbs originating from southern Africa. Their strappy leaves begin to appear from late summer or early autumn, followed by multiple funnel shaped flowers in clusters on stems up to 50cm tall. Flower colours range from white to pink and orange/red.
Like most bulbs, tubers or corm based plants, crocus and nerines can be lifted after the leaves die back and divided after several years then planted elsewhere or in pots around the garden.
By Ian Rogan