Good Gardening with Mark Curtis: January 2020

01/01/20 News

Where can you find Red Riding Hood and Rip van Winkle in the bed together? Sounds like a Christmas cracker joke, but it is of course, the world of spring bulbs. You may have missed out on the loose bulbs, but potted bulbs are promisingly poking their heads through, and can be carefully transplanted in bowls, beds and containers. One of Alan Titchmarsh's ‘desert island' flowers is the Snake's Head Fritillary – a nodding flower of dusky gorgeousness. It will naturalise and spread, but needs a humus-rich and reliably summer-damp meadow ground. 
For window boxes and containers, or even an alpine bed, dwarf tulips are a delight. Tulip ‘Persian Pearl’, with its purple outer petals and yellow centre can make a splash. At just 6 inches tall, it won't get knocked down by the spring winds. The aforementioned ‘Red Riding Hood’, scarlet with a boldy striped leaf and an Award of Garden Merit is also dwarf and versatile for containers. For real flare, ‘Guiseppe Verdi’ or ‘Stresa’ (also with an Award of Garden Merit from the RHS) both have a carmine and yellow flowers and will add a real lift to your display. If dusky sultriness is more for you, the frilly parrot feathered edged ‘Rococo’ looks refined. It is over a foot tall though, so position accordingly.
For a starburst of yellow, the dwarf Daffodil ‘Rip van Winkle’. I suppose it gets its name from the shagginess of Rip's beard. Invaluable as one of the few white daffodils, scented as well, ‘Thalia’ is named after the goddess of comedy and verses, and is particularly cheery.
In the end, if you can't decide, then I would go for Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’, one of the most popular dwarf daffodil varieties with up to 3 flowers per stem. Don't forget to feed all bulbs after flowering, this will guarantee you a fine display in the following year.

Mark Curtis
Plant Manager, Tates of Sussex

For more gardening tips for the month, please visit