NATURALISING BULBS >>
Every autumn we import 80,000 spring flower bulbs direct from Holland: tulips, narcissi, alliums and a whole variety of ‘little beauties’ as we call them.
Although I have an addiction to tulips (hence the need to start an import business to fuel said addiction!) the bulbs I often recommend to people starting to garden, or with limited funds to spend on a new garden, are narcissi.
Narcissi encompass both the bright, sulphur yellow trumpet daffodils that most people associate with spring but also the huge array of scented narcissi that we concentrate on at Linnels Farm, with multi-headed flowers. They’re found in colours ranging from clotted cream through to tangerine.
I work alongside an amazing Swiss garden photographer, Sabina Rüber; she opened up my eyes to many new varieties with all their differing scents. They are all bewitching on a sunny spring day but the variety ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ possesses a spicy scent, whilst others possess a heady perfume that can scent a whole house from a vase of a mere five cut stems.
Unlike tulips, which benefit from planting later when soil temperatures are less than 10°C, all the narcissi require early planting. They put their roots down early and have the ability to pull themselves further into the soil if, should you perhaps get a little bored as I do when planting 500 bulbs at a time, you plant a little less deep than recommended.
Bulbs that naturalise, such as narcissi, camasssia, crocus, snowdrops and fritillaries, form little baby bulbs next to the ‘mother ‘ bulb and over time these grow and become big enough to flower, forming little colonies in the ground.
Before you know it the area in the lawn or the pathway to the garage has become a mini-meadow of creamy white flowers that light up the lengthening spring dusks.
JOBS IN THE GARDEN >>
It’s time to choose which garlic varieties we’d like to sow this year. I’m treating myself to The Garlic Lover’s Planting Pack from The Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight.
The mixture of hard neck and soft neck (storing varieties), which need using more quickly, should provide us with the perfect supply for the workshop kitchen throughout next year.
Any extra weedy ground that we’d like to use for planting next year can be covered with black membrane/cardboard and weighted down with stones. The lack of light will cause the weeds to die and rot back into the soil.
Come spring we can remove the covers and have bare earth ready to plant into. There may be the odd tap-rooted dandelion starved of light and fighting for survival, but this can be easily removed with a trowel.
RICH PICKINGS FROM THE GARDEN >>
Things have slowed right down now in the veg plot but there are still a few stalwarts to keep us supplied with fresh fodder.
The ‘cavolo nero’ plants are large enough to remove the lowest, largest leaves. Of all the brassicas, this is the sweetest tasting in my opinion, as at home in a ham tart as it is wilted in a bowl of nourishing Tuscan bean soup.
The squashes have finished ripening on slates and, now that the skin is fully hard, they can safely be stored indoors for use over winter in stews, soups, curries and even take centre stage as squash and ginger scones.
How to plant your naturalised ‘meadow area’
Narcissi bulbs, planting trowel/long trowel, kneeler – optional, gloves, tea and cake as a reward.
First off, choose your area carefully: your bulbs are going to be there for years to come so choose an area that gets plenty of spring sunshine – deciduous trees overhead are fine since they are not in leaf that early on in the year, but shade under evergreen trees is not.
Test the depth of the soil under the lawn/trees before you ‘scatter’ your bulbs. Last year I wanted a tulip meadow to be seen from the kitchen window so gaily threw 3,000 tulip bulbs (tulips don’t come back each year so this one has to be done annually) and then knelt down and realised that the soil under the grass there was only 1 inch deep!
Remember that narcissi need to retain their leaves for six weeks after they have flowered so can’t be mown with the lawn for that period; so if you want them poking through the lawn keep them in distinct areas otherwise your whole lawn will look in need of a good haircut come May.
There is nothing worse than seeing a line of single daffodils snaking down the side of a path – it just looks miserly. The bulbs need to be planted pointy end up and hairy roots down – I simply make a slit with my long trowel and widen it enough to pop the bulb in the hole and then push the turf back over it.
Narcissi have oxalic acid in them so don’t get eaten by rabbits, squirrels or mice, so once you have done all the hard work you can sit back with a cup of tea and slice of cake and wait for the shoots to appear in February, followed by the flowers from March to May, depending on which variety you choose.
UPCOMING COURSES @LINNELS FARM
CHUTNEY AND CHILLI JAM >> 16 OCTOBER
Worked hard all summer and want to preserve a little bit of that sunshine for the cold winter months? In this practical workshop you’ll learn the art of making jams, chutneys, jellies and vinegars. Depart with jars of your handmade goodies at the end of the day.
COPPERPLATE WITH CREATIVE CALLIGRAPHY >> 20 OCTOBER
In this relaxed and informal session, Angela will introduce you to the art of writing with a pointed nib before taking you through the basic strokes before moving on to letter and word formation. All materials will be provided for you to keep so you can continue your practice at home, while refreshments and a delicious lunch will fuel your creativity throughout the day.
CANDLE MAKING WITH BERNICIA CANDLES >> 21 OCTOBER
Caroline will guide you through a practical course on hand pouring soy wax candles and beeswax melts. You will leave with knowledge and tips on making soy wax candles and also bees wax melts, and get the opportunity to choose different fragrances and containers to produce and take away your hand poured products.
FRENCH BREADS >> 23 OCTOBER
Join us on this one-day workshop and learn how to make fancy fougasse, crusty baguettes, tarte flambée and many sweet breads.
For further details and to book visit: linnelsfarm.com