It’s already too cold for streaking and gardening in the nude. Time to lay down some cheer to start next year with a bang. If you have already done some autumn clearing, you can see the bald bits just asking for future embellishment. Lay in some plans for honing your body to display standard, or get your ass down to your local bulb suppliers. Don’t be content with one shop; cruise the district and get some variety or quit as soon as you get a better offer. In both cases, look for something striking. I have just bought sixty purple/orange Iris hollandica “Frans Hals” (B&Q, £6 for the lot), which will multiply as time goes by and should make a vivid statement in June.
Get as many as you can afford, without getting chilled or going hungry. Six spreedy daffodils will not inspire a passing poet nor make a splash in springtime. Buy cheaply in bulk, to make a strong first impression. You should be aware that any sack of mixed varieties will be filled mostly with bog standard ordinary types, jizzed up with three of the spectacular sort which features so largely in the photograph on the front of the packet. As with so many things, aim to acquire plump, firm specimens, the bigger the better. Reject any subject where you can see mould, feel slime or smell rot. You may feel foolish if you are caught sniffing the containers, fingering the goods and mumbling to yourself but you will thank me later, when you get a fair return for your money. Try not to get arrested, since this will cost you bail which would be more gainfully spent outdoors.
Aconitum napellus (monkshood)
Co-ordinate the shades; my daughter Cineraria is going for pink, plum and amber but I don’t have her chutzpah and fear that I can’t pull it off. Attila likes big yellow narcissus and I’m not so keen. I get resentful when he purchases his own weight in King Alfreds and then asks me to put them in the front, where they won’t match my scheme. I let him buy as many as he can carry and insist that he does the planting, in the back where I won’t see them. As always, he’s done a hero’s job and his patch will be brightly stuffed, to coin a phrase. Perhaps they’re not so bad after all.
Dinner plate Dahlia
I’ve filled the front with Alliums and Iris which both like full sun and well drained soil. If they are happy, they will persist for many years on little more than the occasional handful of fertiliser. To avoid seasonal dampness which they dislike, the tulips will go in later and bloom earlier. I’ll put them off as long as I can manage without incurring frostbite or inconveniencing the carol singers. My plan is for purple, white and plum, with the occasional dollop of ginger to introduce some fire. In the unlikely event of last year’s tulips surviving, I’ll just have to put up with pink. They may clash with the carrot colour but by then the naked sunbathers will attract more attention.