Clumber Gardener: Now it the time to get planting those bulbs

Chris Margrave, head gardener at Clumber Park

October is the peak month for planting bulbs, both in the garden and into pots for flowering inside.

Indoor bulbs provide a welcome splash of early colour in anticipation of the display to come in the garden.

Hyacinths, large flowering crocus, some narcissi and a few tulips are all suitable for flowering in the house.

For narcissi, choose Paperwhite , Bridal Crown, Cragford or Tete-a- Tete or, for something different, Rip Van Winkle.

Crocus, like Victor Hugo, Grand Maitre or Golden Yellow Mammoth, are also good for indoor colour in a variety of shades.

Plant bulbs in a suitable container, using moist bulb compost with the tops of the bulbs just showing above and make sure the bulbs aren’t touching each other.

Put the container in a dark, cool, well ventilated place until the shoots are about 2.5 centimetres tall – this will take around 10 to 15 weeks for most varieties, although hyacinths may be a little earlier.

This cool, dark period is essential as it allows a good root system to develop.

Keep the compost moist, but don’t over-water.

When the shoots have reached about 2.5 centimetres, move the container into a cool, dimly-lit area, then after a couple of weeks, into a lighter spot, turning the container occasionally so that the growth is even.

Finally, move it to a southerly-facing window where it will get more sunlight.

Hyacinths are amongst the most powerfully scented of bulbs and some people find the scent over-powering in a small room.

If this is so, go for one of the more delicately scented narcissi and leave the hyacinths for outdoors.

If you’re happy with indoor hyacinths, try Crystal Palace, Hollyhock or Rosette.

When they’ve finished flowering, indoor bulbs can be planted outside for flowering in the garden next spring.

The exceptions are Papewhite and Bridal Crown which aren’t reliably hardy.

Let their foliage die back naturally, and store them somewhere dry for re-planting in a container next autumn.

Now it is October, keep an eye on the weather forecasts for the first sharp autumn frosts.

Lift tender perennials such as dahlias, cannas and gladioli before the cold weather damages them.

When the frost has blackened the tops of dahlias, lift tubers and prepare them for storage for the winter.

In a frost-free shed or greenhouse leave them upturned for a few days to drain off water from the hollow stems.

Put the tubers in seed trays and pack damp compost around them.

They should be stored in a frost-free place and inspected regularly.

The compost should be kept damp, but not wet.

If you heat your greenhouse over the winter, put up insulation to reduce heating bills and check that your heater is working properly.

Prune blackberries and hybrid berries such as Loganberries and Tayberries by cutting back the old fruited canes to ground level and tying canes produced this year to supports.

October is also a good time to plant container grown hardy perennials and shrubs.

In warm, moist soil plants can establish and make good root growth before the onset of cold winter weather.

In mild weather, grass will continue growing but raise the height of cut of your mower to just over three centimetres.

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