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A FESTIVAL OF COLOUR What does this title suggest to you?  Bedding plants, herbaceous perennials, hanging baskets?  No, Spring Bulbs! It may be August and we are enjoying (or have enjoyed) all the colours that come/came with summer but it is time to think about next spring.  This is the month when bulbs become available for purchase.  The harvest has been taking place since mid-June and the bulbs have been dried and prepared ready for you to plan your colour show for next spring. But, why do you need to be thinking about this now?  Well it is all to do with quality, because once bulbs have been removed from the ground they dry out and the drier a bulb becomes the less well it will perform in the future.  There is also the problem of how long a bulb needs in the ground before it will perform at its best.  The answer to this is approximately six months! Let us consider the snowdrop. The first bulb to flower outdoors each year, it is also the quickest to dry out.  Snowdrops flower at the end of January through February and maybe into March.  Six months back from this brings us to late August/September. They will have been on sale for a week or two by then and so will be in perfect condition for planting.  The same criteria can be used for Crocuses, Daffodils, Tulips and all the other range of beautifully coloured bulbs that flower between January and June. Bulbs are always available to buy in Spring, already growing in pots for instant impact, but if you want any significant number of bulbs, buying them dry and planting your own is by far the best value for money.  There are bulbs for all sites and conditions, except a bog!  Many different types can be combined together to create the most spectacular colour and maximum length of flowering time.  Bulbs can be anything from two inches tall to about four feet!  If you have small pots, a rockery, border edges, hanging baskets or just a very windy site, there are so many dwarf bulbs that you can have just as much colour in the smallest of spaces. Hyacinths, still very popular at Christmas, need a special mention too. They also have specific requirements to guarantee the best results.  Firstly, only use “prepared” bulbs. These have been ‘cold’ treated to fool them into thinking the winter has already gone, so they will start growing and flower in time for Christmas.  To give them enough time to achieve this, they must be planted by the middle of September, watered and placed in the dark, preferably in a cool place.  They should be left until the beginning of December and providing they have a good shoot of at least one inch they can then be brought out into the light in a warm room and they should be ready to flower by Christmas. If this article has stirred your imagination why not visit us from the middle of August to see the vast range of options and colours available. Happy planting! Phil Dunnett