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WEEKEND: GARDENING: Corm and get your lovely bulbs; A MARKET STALL IN THE CITY CENTRE HAS ALL THE CHOICE YOU'LL NEED FOR A TOP SHOW OF FLOWERS NEXT YEAR.

Byline: ANN EVANS

ANN EVANS is preparing for a colourful spring already - but it really is time to start thinking about daffs and tulips.

WHETHER your garden is looking washed out and bedraggled, or bright and fresh after all the rain, it's time to start thinking about spring, and the blaze of colour you could have after the dreary winter months, if you plan ahead now.

Autumn is the most crucial time of year for planting spring-flowering bulbs as they need a sustained dormant period of cold temperatures to stimulate root development.

However, they must be planted before the first hard frost.

Ideally they should be planted as soon as possible after buying them, but if you must store them, keep them dry and cool, between 10-15C degrees.

They are best planted in groups or small clusters as one flower standing alone doesn't look very dramatic. And you can plant them practically anywhere - in flowerbeds, borders, pots, window boxes - practically any outdoor space.

Crocuses for example, in scattered clusters through the lawn, give a lovely natural look, so that even the most unskilled gardener can create a beautiful spring garden with bulbs.

And there are so many different bulbs to choose from. There are the firm favourites such as hyacinths, tulips, daffodils and crocus, and lots of new varieties of iris, fritillaria and camassia to try.

One tulip which you might want to plant is Tulipa Queen of the Night, which was recently voted the Best of the Best flower bulb for autumn planting in 2004 in a survey hosted by the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Centre.

Lucas Boreel, European area manager for the International Flower Bulb Centre, was thrilled with the panel's decision, saying: "I have long been a fan of this drama queen of a flower. It can be relied on to add instant impact to any garden, whether on its own or with other flowers."

At this time of year garden centres and nurseries are stocking up with spring bulbs, but you needn't travel any further than the Coventry Retail Market in the city centre, to C F Southalls, known better as the plant stall outside the market.

There, owners Colin and Janine Southall who have run the popular stall for 13 years, have a fantastic range of bulbs, with more to come, supplied by top Dutch company Prinz of Holland.

Colin said: "At the moment we have about 40 different types of tulip including Queen of the Night. We have 10 different colours of hyacinth, also alliums, crocuses, amaryllis, double daffs - I'd say we've got as good a range of bulbs, if not better than many nurseries.

"Price wise our prices haven't gone up in four or five years and if there's something special somebody wants which isn't in stock, nine times out of ten we can get it for them."

Let bulbs light up your garden

IF you want to be a bit more adventurous with your spring flowering bulbs, here's a few which are sure to transform a bleak garden space into an exotic flowering paradise:

ANENOME CORONARIA - available in a lovely range of clear colours, all with a black to deep navy blue centre. Blooms February-April.

ARUM ITALICUM - also known as Cuckoo pint, it produces tiny springtime flowers. Blooms May/June.

CALOCHORTUS LUTEUS - also known as a fairy lantern, has long narrow green leaves and carries a three-petalled yellow flower which opens to reveal striking brown blotches, similar to the wings of a butterfly. Blooms May.

CHINODOXA FORBESII - a dainty little bulb ideal for rock gardens or raised beds, with its mass of star-shaped blue flowers with white centres. Blooms February-April.

ERYTHRONIUM DENS-CANSI - or dog's tooth violet. Native to North America, central and southern Europe, Russia and Japan. Blooms April/May.

FRITILLARIA MELEAGRIS - the white and chequered purple flowers are an attractive addition to the spring garden. Blooms April/May.

NARCISSUS HONOLULU - this double variety of Narcissus is an eye-catching variety of what is probably one of the best-known spring-time bulbs. Blooms January-May.

PUSCHKINIA LIBANOTICA - the porcelain vein running through the milky white flowers are set off to perfection by the dark green leaves. Blooms March/April.

SPREKELIA FORMOSISSIMA - also known as an Aztec Lily, has a deep red flower with green striped bases. Blooms in May.

TULIPA ANCILLA - the striking upward-facing petals are edged with pink. The Tulipa Ancilla flowers early in the season, signalling the start of spring. Blooms March.

PLANTING YOUR BULBS

IN the area you are planting, loosen the soil with a rake to aerate it and remove any weeds and small stones.

MIX in a bit of peat moss to improve soil drainage. Place (do not push) bulbs firmly in the soil with the pointed side up. Space large bulbs 7-20 cm apart and small bulbs 3-7 cm apart. (Don't worry if you're not sure which way is up, upside-down bulbs usually come up anyway).

THE hole should be approximately twice the bulb's height.

PLANT bulbs when the ground is cold.

COVER the bulbs with soil and water generously if the soil is not wet yet. Add 5-7cm of mulch, pine bark is fine, on top of the garden bed. This will provide added protection from the cold and keeps the soil from drying out.

DESIGNING WITH BULBS

SEPTEMBER sees the launch of a new website provides instant garden design solutions at the touch of a button.

It focuses on tulips with advice by Anna Pavord.

Visit www.tulipdesigner.com

Get stuck in!

PICK early varieties of apples and pears when slightly under-ripe.

POT on alpines raised from cuttings in spring, using a gritty compost. Overwinter in a cold frame before planting out next year.

SOW poppies outdoors where they can flower next year.

PLANT out spring-flowering biennials including forget-me-nots and wallflowers in their flowering positions.

PLANT new border perennials and water in well.

BRING in houseplants that have been standing outside, before the first frost.

CAPTION(S):

D21871_1. GET PLANTING: Janine Southall with a handful of the bulbs on offer at her market stall in the city centre Pictures by WILL BINNS D21871_5; D21871_6
COPYRIGHT 2004 Coventry Newpapers
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Sep 4, 2004
Words:1020
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