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.