Tag Archives: grow your own

Spring flowering bulbs

bulbs laid out ready to plant

bulbs laid out ready to plant

Although it is possible to have bulbous plants flowering in your garden nearly all year, most of us in the UK and USA treat spring as the most important season for a flowering bulb display. Although they flower in the spring, these bulbs need to be planted in the autumn; so now is the time to be planning and purchasing your spring flowering bulbs.

At Plews we don’t generally plant too many bulbs at one go. Planting hundreds in one day is a chore we leave to those who have park displays to organise. However, we do offer bulb planning and planting as part of our service to regular clients, as well as part of an overall garden or planting design. Designing and planting containers whether for seasonal variation or for a special occasion is one of those tasks which is pleasant to add into a regular maintenance schedule.

Rather than dashing into spring bulb buying and then regretting the result next year, make yourself a coffee and

“Take the time to plan before you buy. Some questions you may like to ask yourself: are you planting in borders, containers, naturalising in grass? How many containers and how big are they? If in the borders, let’s be practical, consider how many bulbs you have the time to plant. Oh yes, and is there currently room in the border where you’d like to plant or do you still have late flowering Helenium and dahlias in full bloom?

Let’s find some answers. If your borders are still full and looking lovely, then congratulate yourself on a having a fine late display of colour. Make a note to look for and buy later flowering tulips and narcissus (daffodils). These could be planted when your Heleniums have gone over and still flower when they should next year. Another option is to buy the early flowering varieties you covet but plant them in pots. A further choice is to accept that they are likely to flower a bit later as you’ve planted them later.”

(Extract from Plews eBook “In Your Autumn Garden”)

Tulip 'dolls minuet'

Tulip ‘dolls minuet’

As for planting, the rule of thumb is to plant bulbs about three times as deep as the diameter of the bulb. This could be time consuming if you’re going to measure each one! The rough guide we use at Plews is that for larger bulbs, for example, Tulip, Daffodil and Hyacinth, we make a hole about 6-8” or 15-20cm deep. For smaller bulbs, for example, Crocus, Muscari, Bluebell, we make the hole about 4-5” or 10-12cm deep.

So, what are some of the more popular spring flowering bulbs? Some of Plews favourite spring flowering bulbs are:

Narcissus 'jetfire'

Narcissus ‘jetfire’

For vibrant displays:

Narcissus ‘February Gold’ and Narcissus ‘jet fire’ – a mix of to give you a brightly coloured display to liven up your mornings from February to April;

Bright red Tulip ‘Red Riding Hood’ has variegated foliage so extends the interest beyond flowering time; looks good in pots and borders.

Hyacinth 'Delft blue'

Hyacinth ‘Delft blue’

For softer shades:

Tulipa ‘dolls minuet’ has soft crimson red petals, with the subtle markings of the viridiflora tulip group;

Hyacinth ‘delft blue’ has the added pleasure of a delicate scent; plant it near a door so you can enjoy the perfume.

daffodils and pansies in patio container

daffodils and pansies in patio container

Remember to protect your bulbs once planted, so the squirrels don’t dig them up. If you’re planting in pots, we’ve found that adding shallow rooted winter bedding over the top of the spring bulbs generally works. The flowers in your winter display should keep going until your spring bulbs flower; how organised is that!

Marie Shallcross, Senior Partner, Plews Garden Design
Resolving your Gardening issues with inspirational ideas and flexible solutions

In Your Autumn Garden with Plews Garden Design - cover illustration by Lucy Waterfield

In Your Autumn Garden with Plews Garden Design – cover illustration by Lucy Waterfield


Allotment Gardens

sunflowers on allotment

sunflowers on allotment

Many allotments are under attack from councils and developers wanting to build houses, shops offices and generally concrete over the area. Why is this a bad idea?

There are historical, ecological, community and health reasons why we should be finding more land for allotments and community gardens not trying to squeeze them out of existence.

What is an allotment? Allotments are generally understood to be individual plots cultivated for private use, grouped together on a larger parcel of land. A Community Garden is generally a parcel of land which is cultivated by a group together as a whole plot. Most allotments forbid any permanent structures, for example sheds cannot have a concrete base or be larger than a specified size. There are some differences in the terms used internationally, but we’ll use the above.

allotment beds

allotment beds

Allotments are found in many countries; for example, UK, USA, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Philippines and Malta. These latter two are twenty-first century start-ups. Malta’s aim is to encourage more young people to take up organic farming. In the Philippines the allotments offer a means of growing their own food to poor urban families. The countries with long established allotments often started offering such land as a result of the increasing urbanisation of the population which left them without gardens in which to grow their food. The land itself was donated by private philanthropists and landowners or by local councils, on a leasehold rather than freehold basis.

Historically allotments have played an important role in feeding the various nations. They’re also important in showing how society has progressed at grass roots level (sorry for the pun). When the majority of the population was rural based, there was frequently a productive garden around the home and often an acre or more to provide vegetables and keep chickens and a pig. Well, there was until enclosures of common land from the mid eighteenth century onwards. These days most of us live in towns and have small gardens or balconies and probably not enough time to tend an acre after work; but we could manage to till an allotment.

swiss chard on allotment

swiss chard on allotment

Allotments can encourage and support local communities; the majority of plot holders will live within walking or cycling distance so may know each other away from the allotments and are encouraged to get to know each other with regular social events and general conversation when working on their plots. Community gardens can be even better at generating the neighbourly feeling as leisure space as well as productive space is shared.

The health benefits of gardening and being outside are as applicable to allotments as they are to your own private garden. Exercise, fresh air, natural sunlight (vitamin D) and fresh food plus the known advantages of the soil itself, as research has shown that soil micro-organisms could help lift our mood.

Ecologically and environmentally, allotments maintain an important diverse range of plant species and varieties within a species. They are a green space within urban areas, helping to reduce mean temperatures; providing a permeable surface to diminish the effects of water run-off and flooding; and improving air quality as plants take in carbon dioxide and give out oxygen.

mixed calendula and brassicas

mixed calendula and brassicas

I think one of the delightful aspects of British allotments is that the parcel of land you are given is measured in ‘rods’. A rod is 5 ½ yards and was quite literally a rod used by surveyors to measure a plot of land; rods were joined together for measuring longer areas. The usual size of an allotment plot is 10 rods or about the size of a doubles tennis court.

The week 5- 11 August is National Allotment Week in Britain, run by the National Allotment Society. Many local allotment groups are having open days – so why not visit an allotment site near to you and see what they get up to? You could put your name down for a plot – or at the very least support allotment sites such as Farm Terrace so they don’t get built on; they are far too precious a resource as they are.

Marie Shallcross

Plews Garden Design – Resolving your Gardening issues with inspirational ideas and flexible solutions

Sitting in the garden enjoying the sun or sitting on a cool veranda in the shade?
“In Your Summer Garden with Plews Garden Design” – the newest in our series of Gardening Almanacs makes good reading wherever you are.

sweetcorn on allotment

sweetcorn on allotment