I was in despair about my parched garden, but some serious rainfall and a September boost of energy has renewed my interest. Just as well, there’s lots to do. A visit from Remi with his noisy strimmer has despatched the dry meadow growth raked to a haystack under the oak tree (this will rot down for a year – good fun for the bantams and a bare patch to plant in next year).
Our efforts to scythe were not as successful as Poldark’s, so we’ve resorted to the strimmer – devastatingly efficient and fast, and wonderful when it stops. The garden looks instantly bigger, and there are rich pickings for the hens. I keep several areas long for overwintering bugs, and the rest of the garden lies fallow till the spring.
This time last year, I decided to plant some bulbs in the meadow. I bought a bulb planter – a sort of auger (from crocus.co.uk) that fits into a cordless household drill. Always keen to try out a bit of new kit, my son Max worked the plot, screwing easily into the thick clay soil, 12 cm deep, bringing out a divot. I followed on, pouring a little grit into the hole, popped in the bulb then topped up with a mixture of compost and soil.
We repeated the process all over the plot, planting 250 Gladiolus byzantinus: a delicate magenta variety (think pre-raphaelite, less Edna Everage) that works well in grassy areas because it’s hardy with a strong seed head and stem. Dotted in amongst them I included 100 dark blue Camassia esculenta or quamarsh, smaller with less foliage than other family members – the catalogue promises a blue haze.
In the past, I’ve planted Narcissus Pheasant’s Eye in clumps, cutting out a square of turf, but I want a sparser look with little spots of colour among the grasses and the tiny magenta Grassy Vetchling that seeds itself everywhere under my fruit trees. The result was pretty spectacular, the glads were more successful than the camassias, but the overall effect was just what I wanted.
The Whitstable Open Garden Group will be opening for the NGS on May 21st in 2017 so perhaps you’ll visit to see it all in full flower.
HOW TO GROW BULBS
- Before planting, store bulbs in an airy shed or garage.
- Improve drainage by planting on a layer of grit.
- Bulbs should be planted in a hole two or three times their height.
- Cover the area with chicken wire if squirrels are a problem.
- In grass, don’t mow for six weeks after flowering.
- And never tidy away foliage until it has died back completely.
- I bought my bulbs from gee-tee.co.uk.
- Clare-bulbs.co.uk for bulbs in bulk.
- Rareplants.co.uk & bulbspecialuists.co.uk for unusual varieties.
- Wildflowershop.co.uk – for native bulbs.