Planning Ahead for your Perfect Spring Garden

If you want a lovely garden come spring, now is the time to get planning. As summer makes way for autumn and plants die back, we get the opportunity to really work on the bare bones of the garden.

We know that in gardening, as in so many things, a little preparation goes a long way and when it comes to Spring planting now is the time to buy those bulbs and get the planning done so that next year your little patch of heaven will be a profusion of colour.

Matt Biggs from Radio 4’s Gardeners Question Time is a man who knows a thing or two about bulbs so we asked him for his top tips.

Well the first tip has to be – browse the bulb catalogues, go to the garden centres and nurseries, buy them in good time and plant them in good time. You will get the best choice and a wide colour range.  There is a reason they are in the garden centres and nurseries now and if you get them in early they have time to get their roots down and start getting themselves ready to pop up in the Spring  – and it is always such a joy when those first green spears of growth start appearing in the grey of January. For inspiration, a trip to Keukenhof is ideal – there you will see both the power of the single colour and also the delights of mixed colours. Colour is such a personal thing but in general not too many in different colours in close proximity –  unless you really want to make a statement. Some companies will even sell bulbs in pre-selected colour palettes which takes the hard work out of it.  You can also choose complementary sets if you have a large area but don’t be too ambitious – you can’t go wrong if you keep it simple.

You don’t have to go to Keukenhof to see amazing planting schemes – Pashley Manor, www.pashleymanorgardens.com Waddesden www. waddesdon.org.uk are just two of many wonderful places to go to see great Spring planting. and Avon Bulbs and de Jager bulbs. www.dejager.co.uk  have wonderful variety and choice too.

Don’t forget that bulbs are also great for kids too as an introduction to gardening, plant them on a pot and watch them come up and even if you don’t have a garden you can plant window boxes.  I also love to see pots going up exterior steps, the small jonquil type narcissus are ideal for that and as you go up and down the steps they are a constant delight.

The other great thing is that you can think of them almost like a bunch of flowers and change your colours every year.

Where is the best place to buy them?

It slightly depends what sort of gardener you are.  If you want general colour and quantity then the garden centres have great deals.  If you want something more specific then the specialist growers offer amazing varieties – and a lot of specialist knowledge.  There are some wonderful botanical tulips, much nearer the original wild variety from the mountains of Turkey for example.  They are tiny and exquisite and if you grow them in a pot you can bring them to a prominent place when they are about to flower and enjoy them outside of a window or on a patio.  Avon Bulbs and de Jager bulbs. www.dejager.co.uk  have wonderful variety and choice too and there are so many great specialists who know and love the plants that they grow – seek out the one nearest you or go on line and really benefit from their expertise.

Any tips on colour?

Grow what you will love!  If you like a subtle colour palette then you can graduate the hues, for example from palest pink to deep maroon, or the softest cream to sunny yellow. Or if you like to zing it up a bit go for the bright oranges teamed with purple.  You can also plant for succession so that as one variety goes over, the next one is there to take over.  Another option is to grow your bulbs through ground cover for extra emphasis – I have seen bright scarlet tulips growing through pale blue forget me knots which looks wonderful too, there are so many options. That is one of the joys of gardening – experiment and see what works for you and above all, enjoy it.

Watch out for Matts latest book, coming soon ‘Grow something different to eat’ published by Dorling Kindersley.

Meanwhile you can pick up ‘Great British Village Show’ by Matt and Thane Prince in good bookstores now.