September is the time to buy a selection of bulbs to give colour in the garden next spring. Bulbs can be used in a mixed border with shrubs and herbaceous plants, naturalised in grass or planted in containers. If naturalising in grass select early flowering bulbs that will have finished their display well before the grass needs cutting. Buy the smaller narcissus such as Narcissus pseudonarcissus (the wild daffodil) N. ‘February Gold’ and N. poeticus as they look more natural than the larger daffodils.
Many bulbs originate from regions with a Mediterranean climate so it is necessary to provide the right growing conditions. Drainage is very important and the addition of organic matter and sharp sand or grit will improve soil structure and prevent the bulbs rotting off. Tulips and alliums can be grown in sunny gardens with good drainage but on heavy soils these are best grown in pots.
Avoid the use of plastic pots as the compost stays cold and wet. Crock the bottom of the pot and select a loam-based compost, John Innes No 2, and mix it two parts JI compost to one part grit to provide good drainage. Try some of the wonderful dark coloured tulips such as ‘Queen of Night’, ‘Black Parrot’, and ‘Black Hero’ contrasted with the lily flowered ‘White Triumphator’, or magenta ‘Negrita’. In the border the white multi-headed Narcissus ‘Thalia’ is a delight, and the purple spheres of Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ or the blue spikes of Camassia all provide colour well into May.