This is a good time for ordering and planting bulbs. The selection becomes more exciting if you are prepared to step outside of the garden centre and trust in the specialist suppliers. Broadleigh Gardens (www.broadleighbulbs.co.uk), a specialist in small bulbs, produces the good-quality catalogues, which are dispatching through to mid-April. There is a good selection of such staples as Agapanthus and Allium, Day Lillies and Iris (they list 24 varieties of dwarf bearded iris varying in height between four inches and 12 inches).
They stock the Iris unguicularis I mentioned in the January column, at £7 for three.
But for something different, how about Tropaeolum? The catalogue lists three varieties of this difficult-to-get-hold-of plant. These are late summer flowering relatives of the nasturtium that like to grow through shrubs or hedges. Grow the Speciosum through a dull green hedge (the ubiquitous Cupressocyparis leylandii for example) to add a splash of red. Just don't cut through the Tropaeolum too when you trim the hedges.
But this year I am after some Eremurus. These spectacular plants produce dramatic spikes of small flowers that rise to heights of up to 6ft. Not quite dwarf but too good to exclude. The catalogue says 'needs well drained soil, full sun, and patience'. I can manage the first two but the last is not really in my nature.
A quick list of little tasks to be done: still time to renovate and prune your climbers. In the borders it is a good time to be weeding, mulching (which retains the water and restricts the weeds) and staking. On the lawn, check for bald patches and reseed. Check your hostas for slug protection.
For pots, try top dressing with stone chippings. Slugs hate trying to cross this jagged surface.
I cannot let this article pass without reference to Christopher Lloyd who died at the end of January. Described as the 'grand old man of British gardening', he was a prolific writer but also a true gardener. His garden at Great Dixter is one of the most visited gardens in this country, yet it also manages to be a plantsman's garden. Some of his earlier books, like The Well Tempered Garden (1970) have become classics. He kept writing until the end and is one of the great names of 20th century British gardening.
On to the RHS London Flower Shows. Can you believe that there is a different one of these each month? On 14 and 15 March the theme is: 'Unusual Spring Bulbs' and on April 11 and 12 it is 'Tulips from Around the World'. Free to members, they cost just £5 for non-members on the first day and £3 on the second. There are stunning displays from some of the country's leading nurseries and the opportunity to buy direct from the growers.
All this happens at the RHS Horticultural Halls in Vincent Square, close by Victoria Station.
- Dr Holliday is a GP in Windsor, Berkshire.
GP readers can get £2 off orders £30 or more.
Telephone (01823) 286231 or email sales@broadleigh bulbs.co.uk quoting 'GPN' www.broadleighbulbs.co.uk.