Gardening: It’s time to prepare for spring

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IT may be the height of summer but already the first of the spring bulbs are starting to appear in garden centres and now is a good time to plan your spring display in the garden and in containers.

There are a huge range of sizes and colours to choose from – and ways that you can use them.

Containers of bulbs are really useful in the garden; you can group them together by the door or on a terrace. Use them as focal points and even bring them into the house to enjoy, if it’s not gardening weather.

Start with a container of your choice, preferably with a drainage hole. Place a layer of coarse grit in the bottom for good drainage. Add a few inches of good compost, then your first layer of bulbs.

By using the flowering information provided on the packets of bulbs it is possible to have a container which will have at least one bulb in flower from January to May.

A good combination is narcissus at the base, a layer of tulips, then muscari, finally topped off with crocus. You can brighten up the pot for autumn with small violas and ferns. Remember, mice and squirrels love bulbs so keep them out of their reach until they start to grow.

After all the bulbs have finished flowering, feed them with a high potash fertiliser designed for bulbs.

When they have all died back carefully remove the bulbs and plant them in your garden. They will take a few years to build up their strength and flower again.

Shrub and herbaceous plantings can be brought to life in the spring with bulbs – plant snaking lines of tulips. If your soil is heavy add grit to the soil to improve drainage.

Complement these with bold groups of crown imperials and lilies. Plant a few extra lilies in pots they can be useful to fill any gaps later in the season. At the very front of your borders chionodoxa (glory-of-the-snow) and snow crocus will herald the end of winter and the start of the spring.

• Pete Brownless is nursery supervisor at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh