planting ahead

Reading time 7 minutes

The first draft of this post began with a rather gloomy assessment of the year’s events. By the time I reached the third paragraph I had bored myself, which is never a good start. Besides, who really needs reminding of 2020’s shortcomings? Shortly after beginning again I learned of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ victory (was I the only one refreshing BBC news every 10 mins on Saturday?) and the post started to change course for the better. On the whole I have very little interest in politics and only the most tenuous relationship with the USA, but like millions of others I felt this election result mattered a great deal for the world; for democracy, for honesty, for civility and indeed for peace. My mood lifted and my mind instantly turned to spring and happier days ahead.

Here on the Isle of Thanet, where the North Sea meets the English Channel, it is finally time to clear away the summer exotics. It is backbreaking work, so we tend to do it over a series of weekends between now and the end of the year. Our mild, maritime climate means that we rarely experience frost before January, if at all, so we can afford to take our time. During the autumn gales rather than cold nights are the enemy of top-heavy plants, especially those with large, paddle-shaped leaves. The gingers and cannas had started to look especially raggedy so these were prioritised for removal this weekend. When they are ready for hibernation the ginger stems come away from the rhizomes in a most satisfactory manner, exuding a light, fresh, gingery perfume. This makes it a most enjoyable task, although lifting the heavy, contorted pots is slightly less fun. Gingers are happy to be stored somewhere dark, dry and frost free until late April, unless they are from warmer climes in which case they do not die back and should be overwintered in a cool greenhouse or conservatory. Cannas need cutting back to about 6 or 8 inches after lifting and should be given some moisture over winter as they don’t like to dry out completely. Three brugmansias are still flowering nicely. These have been moved to sheltered spots in the garden until they finally run out of steam. Brugmansia sanguinea is an absolute gem, its exotic appearance belying its preference for cooler temperatures.

Brugmansia sanguinea is flowering beautifully now that the days and nights are routinely cool again.

Our biggest job in November is planting tulips. I went completely overboard with my bulb order this year, imagining that we might be able to open the garden in spring for a pop-up tulip festival. This seems increasingly unlikely, but the bulbs are purchased and they have to be planted. The Beau was keen to try something new – one of the many reasons why we get along so well – so we ditched our usual orange, bronze and plum scheme in the Jungle Garden for a more risqué combination of pink, red and black. This not-so-subtle palette was inspired by a display we read about at the National Trust’s Emmetts Garden where tulips ‘Pink Diamond’, ‘Kingsblood’ and ‘Queen of the Night’ are planted into a meadow beneath cherry trees. What do you think?

The combination of tulips at Emmetts Garden has been recreated using stereoscopic glass slides dating back to around 1910 (photo National Trust)

In the Gin & Tonic gardens we’ve plumped for yellow, white and green, which will be clean, fresh and unfussy. Incorporating yellow helps with the transition from early narcissi to late tulips and makes for a longer-lasting display.

I cannot be without some of my favourite tulips, including ‘Jan Reus’, ‘National Velvet’, ‘Amazing Parrot’ and ‘Doberman’, so these have been planted at the allotment instead. Now that we have a year of allotmenteering under our belts we have decided to grow more flowers and less fruit and veg. The strawberry bed was the first victim of this new strategy: it had to go in any case as it was riddled with couch grass and bindweed. Despite my best efforts to remove them, the weeds will be back in spring. Every fragment of root I have accidentally left behind will form a new invasive plant. As we treat tulips like annuals we will have another chance to remove any persistent weeds before planting dahlias in their place. Having dug out all the strawberries and left the soil exposed to the elements for a couple of weeks, it was a dream to plant up. I managed to squeeze in 14 rows of 25, which is 350 bulbs in total; our very own Dutch bulb field in miniature. TFG.

Categories: Bulbs, Container gardening, Flowers, Our Allotment, Our Coastal Garden, Plants, tulips

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

Greetings Garden Lover! Welcome to my blog. Plants are my passion and this is my way of sharing that joyful emotion with the world. You'll find over 1000 posts here featuring everything from abutilons to zinnias. If you've enjoyed what you've read, please leave a comment and consider subscribing using the yellow 'Follow' button in the bottom, right-hand corner of your screen. You will receive an email every time I post something new.

Leave a Reply to Elizabeth AustinCancel reply

31 comments On "planting ahead"

  1. Loved your sentence: “I felt this election result mattered a great deal for the world; for democracy, for honesty, for civility and indeed for peace.” This is how many of us felt here in the U.S. and why the voter turnout was so high. Though sadly, we are a very broken country. Hoping and praying for restoration in the coming months and years.


    P.S. Love those “Queen of the Night” tulips.

  2. “…but like millions of others I felt this election result mattered a great deal for the world; for democracy, for honesty, for civility and indeed for peace…”
    SO true! Can’t wait to see photos of all your tulips in the spring! May colour and light fill this world.

  3. Love the pink, red and black combination. I am planting very few tulips this year and hoping last years reappear, though that is very much pot luck! I look forward to seeing your mini Dutch field in the summer, it is going to be fabulous!

    1. Yes, I find potted bulbs quite unreliable the second year but some do very well in the ground over a number of years. I think then they just need a top up every so often.

      My parents used to have some marvellous clumps of plain yellow and red tulips that were as strong as an ox and as long-lived as a tortoise.

  4. I love both colour combinations. I have also planted tulips in pots (not as many as you though!) in my vegtable garden, which is fenced in so as to prevent the muntjac deer from eating them. Squirrels also sometimes bite the heads off. They literally just bite off the heads so no means of putting them in water to enjoy. 🙁
    Shortly before Lockdown 2 I finished reading all your post from 2012. Thoroughly enjoyed them, made notes of plants and books to buy. It was ike reading a lovey book, each post a new chapter. You should publish them.

  5. It’s good to mix up the colour palette and I like the sound of the New scheme. Your allotment is going to look incredible in May and who knows maybe visits might be allowed. If not, perhaps you could start selling cut flowers.

    1. Hello! Hope you are keeping well?

      I struggle to bring myself to cut flowers for our own home as I love seeing them in situ. I might have to get over it next year as we plan to grow a lot more. I am hopeful we can do something in April to raise a bit of money for the National Garden Scheme who have suffered, along with countless other charities, this year. By August I hope we can open in the normal way. All the best. Dan

  6. Really enjoy your posts. Like yourself I was delighted with the American results. Let’s hope for a much more harmonious and conciliatory future for us all. Much more can be achieved by working together and accepting differences, without trying to force issues. We have the chance to build a good future for all if we listen to each other. Back to tulips. I have seen the tulips you show in Emmett’s garden and they are stunning. You will love them.

    1. Thank you Pauline. That is good news. The Beau was most intrigued by the combination and how it came about. It must have been quite adventurous at the time. Here’s to a brighter future for us all. Dan

  7. I can’t wait to see your mini Dutch field. It will be spectacular. I think your new color scheme at home will be a hit.
    I can’t tell you how relieved I am about the election. It will be a difficult transition. T has made that clear. A sad time in our lives here. A lot of healing and reigning in the evil that was unleashed during the past 4 years.

    1. Hi Lisa. I am sure you are aware how difficult it is for those of us not in the USA to understand how T got elected in the first place. He does seem to have done an awful lot of damage to America’s standing in the world, but I am sure it can and will be undone. At least he didn’t get another term. I am sure there are embarrassing tantrums pending though. At least we know what to expect from him now!

  8. I too am very happy about the news from the other side of the Atlantic, the world seems like a less aggressive and safer place already. I spent a happy afternoon yesterday planting up my tulip pots with an assortment of colours (Mr TT likes an assortment!) that I got from a garden centre in Herefordshire while on a week away recently. That was 150 bulbs which comes nowhere close to your effort, I feel the urge to buy a few more! The pink, red and black combination looks stunning, I look forward to seeing how they look next spring.

    1. Oh yes, you should just keep going until Christmas. Soon the bulb companies will start reducing bulbs to clear and then you can bag a few bargains.

      I do hope you are both well? You are so fortunate to live somewhere as lovely as you do, although I am sure you must miss going on your travels. Hopefully we can meet up again next year and catch up properly.

      1. An excellent idea to buy a few more bulbs, and another excellent idea to meet up next year. We are both well thank you and best wishes to you both.

  9. I love both the colour schemes, Queen of the Night are one of my favourite tulips along with Angelique and Carnvale de Nice. My tulips are in pots in the fenced in vegetable garden to stop the muntjac deer from eating the flowers, although sometimes the squirrels bite off the flowers without leaving any stem so I can’t even put them in a vase:( Shortly before Lockdown 2 I finished reading all your posts from 2012 and thoroughly enjoyed them. It was like reading a good book, each post a new chapter.

    1. Gosh! I can’t even remember what I wrote about in 2012. I must re-read the posts myself. I do recall it was the year of the London Olympics. In the current climate that seems like a very exciting time.

      Darn those squirrels. It’s not even as if you can float tulips in a bowl of water. I guess there is only so much you can do though. Hope you have more luck next year. Dan

  10. Thanks for the great garden news and pictures

    Keep up the good work Patrick pilkington

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

  11. You can never have enough tulips can you?!?

    I greatly look forward to seeing them all in full bloom. Oooh, I really love that colour combo of the pink, red and rich burgundy (I have tried ‘Kingsblood’ and ‘Doberman’ before and have opted for some gaudy parrot types this year).

    I’m usually a bit cautious commenting on foreign politics, feeling it may not be my business, but the world does feel a little safer already.

    Lulu from Long Mizzle Garden x

  12. After visiting Broadstairs with a group of students from Italy a few years ago, I fell in love with the Isle of Thanet. In the same period, once at home, I started to look for any type of information about lovely Broady; that’s when I encountered your blog and I have enjoyed it a lot so far.

    I would like to thank you for all the beauty that you regularly share with us. You’re adding a touch of poetry, beauty, harmony, happiness and a dreamy atmosphere to everyday life, especially in these difficult times. Thank you, thank you enormously. <3
    Lucy form Italy

    Ps: you should watch the film "Tulip fever", it's awesome.

    1. Thank you very much Lucy. Of course Broadstairs has a strong Italian connection which seems to be getting stronger all the time – we now have Naples, Sicily and Sardinia represented on the restaurant scene. This is great for us as we love Italian food and Italy in general.

      Sadly all the English Language schools have been closed all year – so sad for them – but I guess it has been the same all across Europe. Take Care. Dan

  13. Why is everyone outside of America so obsessed with the presidency here? It is more important to us than it is to anyone else. Many of us are none to pleased with Biden and Harris. There are so many people in America who are qualified for the job, but the Democratic Party puts so much effort into finding candidates with so much baggage. We all liked President Obama, but realistically, he did not do much for America, and came into office with many unresolved issues. I suspect that Biden will be about the same. We all like him, but he has a lot of baggage, and will probably be no better than President Obama. President Trump was just the opposite. He is an arrogant jerk, but did a lot for America. He got the job to be our President, not to be our friend.

    1. Very sage words Tony. Since you are far more qualified to comment than I am, I read them with great interest. I think we have a healthy interest in our friends and allies in America and only wish the best for you all. Dan

  14. Not sure what to think about Emmett’s Garden tulips…. almost alarming but probably very uplifting in real life… good luck with your new colour scheme!

Follow The Frustrated Gardener and have new posts sent directly to your inbox

Join 8,217 other subscribers

Wordpress users click to subscribe here

Follow The Frustrated Gardener