Whilst we wait for the rain there are jobs to be getting on with. Choosing and planting up your spring bulbs is one job that can’t wait forever. Last year I tried a narcissus called ‘Salome’ which was very attractive and I hope to plant some more this autumn. However, if the ground is dry bulbs will not make new roots to stabilise themselves or produce the leaves and flowers for the spring. Leave tulips until next month as they flower later than other bulbs and can wait a while longer.
I haven’t seen chasmanthe corms in the shops, so you may have to beg a few from friends. Chasmanthe is a crocosmia look-alike, known locally as monbretia, and flowers in the spring. They should be dug up every two years or so when the leaves have died down, cleaned and replanted about 10 cms down. They look much better towards the back of the border and planted in groups. They don’t need watering during the summer when they are dormant, and once we get some rainfall their lance-shaped leaves will start to emerge from beneath the soil.
You may find that any freesias that have been left in the garden or pots may be sending up new leaves long before the gorgeously perfumed flowers are due to appear. This is also a habit of ornithogalum, ‘Star of Bethlehem’, which also has a lovely perfume. By the time the flowers appear though the foliage is a messy heap of leaves.
After the first drop of rain, aeoniums, which have been sustained during the summer by the moisture contained in their stems and leaves, may be looking rather droopy at the moment, but should start to fill out and straighten up, now that it is cooler and after some rain. Come spring time their enormous yellow flower heads will burst into bloom atop the long stems, to compete with those spring bulbs that you have just planted.
Garden centres are still full of annuals that you can plant as they will give you colour in your pots until at least Christmas. You can do the same with pelargoniums, (geraniums) as well and use some of the bits you cut off for cuttings. ‘Pot Mums’ are in right now in all their various colours and will brighten any patio or flower bed. If you plant them outside they will likely come up again in the spring and you will be able to take cuttings from them too, giving you lots of new plants.
One way of having fresh salads even if you live in an apartment is to plant up lettuce plugs in a planter or trough. They will grow quickly and you only need to pick enough leaves for a meal and leave the plant to make more. If you intend to sow broad beans do make sure that the soil is damp before you plant them. Some people like to start them off in small pots, but I prefer to soak them first before planting. Given some winter rainfall the beans should be ready about February or March, long before there are any blackflies about to be a nuisance.
Other winter vegetables you may like to try are kohl rabi, broccoli and cauliflowers. I don’t let mine get too big, much preferring them to be small and tender. If like mine, your herbs were burnt to death during the heat, you could replace them now. At this time of year it is better to keep them in pots, so that when winter comes along you can bring them indoors or into a more sheltered spot.