The supermarkets are starting to stock up on spring bulbs. Leave the purchase of bread and cleaning products to the weak and more hygienic shoppers. If you get there first, you have first pick of the most healthy and more unusual specimens. You should aim to greet the new season with colour and a funky smell; starvation would mean you could be thinner too.
Spring bulbs for planting
Morrison’s do a fine line in tulips, £2 for a bag of twelve “black blend”. Currently they are also selling outdoor ferns, £2 and small Acers at £2.50 a pop. Stick that in your ear, garden centres everywhere. I do not accord any respect, kindness or care to anyone else in the scrum, unless they appear to be larger, stronger or more fit than I. Be careful when jousting with little old ladies in oversized coats; sometimes the extravagant outerwear conceals the fact that they are loaded for bear. I can display scars from attacks by bargain crazed octogenarians who have backed me up against a plant display and beaten me into submission, all in pursuit of a rarity. Take my advice and wear reinforced boots and a stab vest.
Pelargonium (geranium) ‘Tomcat’
Lidl, Aldi and B & M specialize in packs of the usual suspects at rock bottom prices. A few of these will bulk up your planting for initial impact. Check that there are no bulbs in the packet that are mushy or mouldy, since such maladies will spread. If you should spot a bizarre Narcissus or extraordinary Iris, don’t leave it until you can go home and run the name through Google. Grab it and bear it to the till in triumph, wading through the groaning bodies of other customers, if that is required. If all else fails, visit your usual horticultural haunts. If you exercise self control now, you may hit Christmas solvent, without backache or stigmata of the palms but you’ll be sorry by March. Stuff everything in the ground as soon as possible to give the roots a chance to establish, apart from tulips, which benefit from being planted later, in October. I give you a cautionary note; beware of the wildlife. Last year I planted one hundred and fifty tulips in my daughter’s Liverpool garden, as a gift. When I asked her for a progress report, she prevaricated. When I insisted on an update, with threats to her person up to and including casting doubts upon her inheritance, she made a shameful admission. Squirrels had descended in a mob and eaten the lot. I’m going to buy her a shotgun before I invest that much effort again. Little hairy swine need not think that a cute face and fluffy tail will save them from my wrath.
Persicaria ‘Painter’s Palette’ & Potentilla
Later in the autumn, many purveyors of plants will sell off the remains of their stock. I propose to cover this odyssey at a later date, if I get as far as Part 2. I promise that I will give you a heads up when Sooty’s on the Preston Road start their reductions; to readers in Canada, USA and Latvia, I can assure you that the great deals are worth the air fare and possible custodial sentence for smuggling live plants across international borders.
For myself, I look forward to an active and adventurous future. I hope to be out there in my nineties, wearing my armoured anorak, smelling like an incontinent badger and wielding my walking stick like a claymore. If I spend my entire pension on plants instead of groceries, I could have the figure that I always dreamed of. You may curl your lip in disgust but I’ll have the prettiest garden.