Plant bulbs now for some Spring colour

Daffodils. Photo by Ian Watkin, Blyth
Daffodils. Photo by Ian Watkin, Blyth
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A look at the calendar tells us summer is starting to grow old and darker nights and cooler weather are drawing in. The other week, I was out walking just after breakfast and, as I was pulling on my boots, there was a freshness in the air that felt distinctly autumnal.

As the day progressed, however, the sun presented us with a glorious day and temperatures soared. It presented a superb finale to what has really been a wonderful dry, sunny summer. We really should not have any grounds for complaint. After four wet summers, interspersed with cold snowy winters, and of course the cold late spring, at last we have had decent weather. 2013 should be remembered as a fantastic summer.

I had almost forgotten what it was like to be working outdoors without wearing water-proofs or warm clothes. I had almost started to believe sunny days were a thing of the past, especially after the Olympic year summer of flood warnings from the Environment Agency.

Whenever we have had the opportunity, Wifey, Monty and myself have been out walking in the countryside taking full advantage of the sunny weather, after all, with confidence eroded, we half expected the weather to break and the interminable rains to return ... but they didn’t!

It has been the same in gardens. So long as you were handy with the watering can summer flowers just kept going and going. The troughs and baskets in the town centres have been packed full of flowers. We spent a day gawping at the magnificent herbaceous borders at Newby Hall and have done our best to eat outdoors whenever we can.

The down side has been taking little Monty out for a run has been virtually impossible. Walks have been fine, but dogs need regular access to water to drink and cool off when it is hot, and the odd time, even in the early morning, when I have got my bike out to take him for a trot, he has found the going tough and has swum as far as he has run. Consequently, my cycling has suffered but the walking has been great.

The progression of the seasons, however, will not be denied. There was a time when Burnley people took a week for September holiday, and hot weather can continue even into October, but the days get shorter and shorter, and soon heavy dews on the lawn become the norm. Eventually the point comes where daylight hours trigger biological clocks in the plant world, and growth stops, and the season swings from summer into the dormancy of autumn.

But there lies the wonder of nature. As things slowly grind to a halt, although it marks the end of a gardening year, it marks the start of another. About now you will start to see spring flowering bulbs being offered for sale in garden shops and garden centres. Indeed September is the key month for planting daffodils, crocus, hyacinths and snowdrops and early October for tulips. It is these little bulbs that give springtime a colour lift after the dark cold days of winter. They mark the return of life, the harbingers of better days to come.

In order to get that colour, however, you have to plan ahead and that means planting bulbs during September. As summer plants fade, remember to find time to plant up empty pots and borders as gaps appear with spring-flowering bulbs, and start preparing for the start of another gardening year.

Spring seems such a long time off and anyway why bother as the sultry heat of summer hangs on, but things will soon change. So plant spring colour and start planting bulbs now. Cooler days and nights beckon... bet little Monty can’t wait!