The tall, heavy-headed daffodil primeur.
GARDENING HOW quickly has this year gone.
The dour weather of early 'summer’, with only brief respites, has meant it has hardly seemed we have had one — and we are now pitching toward autumn.
But gardeners are forever optimists. Next year will obliterate the disappointments of the current one, won’t it?
And now is the time to start planning for next spring.
Bulb planting should start in September, with crocus, daffodils and narcissi. It should really be complete by mid-October as the bulbs throw fresh roots in the autumn, although they make little or no top growth.
It is always worth supplementing your existing daffodil collection because over the years bulbs lose vigour, they work their way deeper into the soil and flower less vigorously. Some get lost to rot and planting other things slices others up.
Fresh blood is the order of the day and in this fast-developing gardening world, there are plenty of new varieties to tempt you.
When shopping, it is worth remembering narcissi and miniatures are the earliest — blooming in February and early March. They are also my firm favourites — jolly, nodding portents of better weather to come.
They are also less prone to being blown over, which can be a problem in those days of winter winds.
Golden harvest and Dutch master are some of the earliest.
Before the middle of April, the medium and small-cupped varieties are in full bloom, closely followed by the doubles, such as golden ducat and Texas. The starry-eyed poeticus varieties are at their best from mid-April right into May.
Primeur is one of those for a sheltered spot because it is heavy headed and tall.
It is an exquisite, deep, rich, golden yellow trumpet show flower — reckoned to be one of the best perennial and latest-blooming golden yellow daffodils in the garden.
It is a prime example of a bulb that is probably one of the most cost-effective, pest-free perennial plants out there.
Patio pots should now be planted up with all manner of bulbs and topped off with autumn and spring bedding, including wallflowers, pansies, violas and polyanthus.
For a long-lasting display of bulbs, it is worth planting several layers in one pot. Start by adding some compost in a deep pot and then spread out several daffodils at the lowest level.
Cover with more compost and then place several tulip bulbs around the compost surface. The final bulb layer could be either miniature daffodils, such as tete-a-tete, or early-flowering crocus.
Fill up with more compost and then plant up your chosen flowering bedding, such as viola or winter pansies.
Other bulbs that need planting either in the flower borders or in large pots and containers include trumpet types (regale and pink perfection), oriental (stargazer and casa blanca) and Asiatic lilies, which come in so many colours and forms.
Even more suitable for patio pots are the new pixie lilies that are dwarf strains of Asiatic hybrids. They make sturdy plants that need no additional support and come in many different colours, including orange, ice white, crimson and butter yellow.
With a little warmth and sunshine, michaelmas daisies (asters), Japanese anemones, chrysanthemums, perennial stonecrop (sedum) and coneflower daisies (helenium, echinacea and rudbeckia) will be making a great display in many gardens.
The wet weather means the asters will need protection from powdery mildew if they are to flower in profusion and a spray or two with FungusClear Ultra a couple of weeks apart will protect new growth.
If your own garden lacks colour then garden centres will have plenty of container-grown coneflowers to plant immediately.
They are perennials, so will provide colour for many years to come and will do well in any sunny, well-drained soil.
For pink flowers, go for echinacea prairies splendour or bressingham hybrid. For red, go for tomato soup or orange hot papaya, and vintage wine for pink/purple.
Sneezeweed (helenium) varieties include ruby Tuesday (copper red), double trouble (the first double yellow) and Chelsey (bright red with yellow flecks).
Rudbeckia plants provide good yellow and orange flowers on tall and short stems, with goldsturm being the most popular choice for stems 60cm tall and dwarf black-eyed Susan Toto better for the fronts of borders as it only grows to 25cm tall.
Tickseed (coreopsis) will provide some vivid yellow flowers that you can find on tall stems a metre tall from variety badengold or dwarf stems from goldfink.
Newer breeds of different colours can be found in the dancing maiden series of coreopsis that include chocolate and white (jive), deep maroon (bolero) and pink and white (soca).