A Schoolboy Error

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After a night of torrential rain – the kind of deluge that you’d imagine might signal the end of the world – it was a surprise to wake up on Saturday morning with sunlight streaming through the windows.  It’s on nights like these that our coastal garden becomes a repository for the entire town’s debris – fish and chip wrappers, leaves from trees I’ve never seen growing nearby and all manner of other unmentionable detritus.  So, after much sweeping and propping-up of toppled fuchsias and dahlias, I embarked on my annual bulb planting day.

It was all going marvellously well until I started to unpack the tulip bulbs.  Herein lay my schoolboy error.  Although I had removed them from their transit packaging I had shoved them unceremoniously into a large carrier bag.  Some of the bulbs (I am blaming the lilies) must have been sent quite damp and the moisture had permeated all the precious paper packages.  Within ten days the tulip bulbs had turned bluer than a good Stilton, their outer skins covered in penicillin mould.

Thankfully any damage was superficial. Left any longer there could have been trouble. To be on the safe side I dashed up to the local garden centre to get some sulphur – a good fungicide treatment for bulbs – and dusted the lot liberally. After all, no-one likes the look of a mouldy “Exotic Emperor” or a rancid ‘Redshine’. Lesson learnt, any bulbs that remained unplanted were carefully unpacked and placed in a cool, dark room next to the dehumidifier. They’ll have to stay healthy for another three weeks until I return from my travels.


Meanwhile, the corms of Crocus ‘Ladykiller’ and C. ‘Snow Bunting’ remained as fresh as the day they were packed. I crammed them liberally into large, low pots ready for an early spring performance. For once I won’t be travelling in February, so I stand a good chance of being able to appreciate their optimistic little flowers.

Above a densely packed pot of Tulipa ‘Czar Peter’, I planted silver-leaved cyclamen and winter pansies with unfeasibly large white flowers. These would normally look completely out of place in our sub-tropical garden, but in early spring, when very little else is flowering, they will look smart and stylish. Let’s hope that’s not another schoolboy error in the making.


Categories: Bulbs, Container gardening, Flowers, Practical Advice

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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6 comments On "A Schoolboy Error"

  1. Excellent! I’ve been leaving my bulbs out on the balcony, hoping they don’t get wet. This is my plan for this fall:
    1. Already done: Poted up bulbs layered with cabbages, kales, and pansies for now.
    2. Get more bulbs when these online bulb sellers have the clearance sales late in the season. Pot them up and hope for six weeks before frost on my balcony. Then put the rest in the garage for the winter. If it is too late, then I will just put all the potted bulbs in my garage. The temp doesn’t go down all the way to freezing, but one wall is attached. It stays cool but not freezing.

    Experiment I did last year: I pulled my huge pots of Geraniums into the garage for the winter, instead of having to deal with them in the house dropping leaves and putting them outside in spring. In the garage, the leaves went brown, and I threw a bottle of water on them once a month or so. In April, there were little white leaves emerging. I brought them outside and the leaves turned green and the plants were fine and bloomed all summer.

    1. Great advice Sandy, shrewd as ever! I overwinter a lot of plants in our undercrofts – which are basically outdoor cellars – and it’s amazing how well they do. Gingers, dahlias and cautleyas which die down in winter are all fine, as are bulbs. I have not tried geraniums but might see how some of the fuchsias fare in the dark this winter. It’s always worth a go, I think. I’ve also read that tulips are fine planted after Christmas, so well worth waiting for the sales and the good deals.

  2. a great read, and it has reminded me, that my list of must have bulbs for next year must be turned into an order pronto. I planted some fritillaria Persica last year – they looked fantastic in a big teracotta pot. My school girl error once was to plant some King Alfred in a very windy and exposed garden – well suprisingly they were flattened , needless to say I have not gone down that route again.

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