As the daffodils begin to drop, the tulips are waiting to have their turn in the spotlight, writes GINA PARKINSON.

A FEW daffodils are still flowering our garden, a group of large golden yellow ones stand tall in a shaded part of the garden. The rest have gone over and are falling into that slightly irritating stage with plenty of foliage that will flop soon.

Gritted teeth are required at this point and hands should be kept well away from clippers, since the leaves need to be left until they brown and can be pulled away easily.

Fortunately, tulips are here to take their place and are looking gorgeous. Tulips are often used as container plants for mid-spring colour and a large pot stuffed with these bulbs is hard to beat on a sunny step.

We have two pots which were planted up in November and have sat by the patio doors since. It is a sheltered spot and the mild winter meant they suffered little frost. For weeks now we have watched the first buds push through the compost and gradually fill their space with foliage.

A couple of weeks ago the first pale cream bloom opened and since been joined with many more, the large flowers opening out in the sun then closing up again once dusk falls. More recently a smaller variety has joined them, thinner leaves and stems poking through any space they can find and lovely dark purple flowers contrasting with their paler companions.

A smaller pot next to these is yet to flower, striped foliage giving us interest at the moment. It won’t be long before these flowers open too, the buds are already there ready to pop.

I have grown tulips in containers a few times, always successfully; less successful has been transplanting them into the garden or into containers for the following year.

Foliage has been allowed to die down naturally, bulbs lifted and dried and kept in a cool dry place before being planted in late autumn. Nothing has come up.

The bulbs that are most reliable at least for me are the simple single black-throated early species with satin petals in shades of yellow, orange and red. These have been planted straight into the garden over the past few years and always come up although their numbers dwindle after an especially cold winter. They can be added to the following November.

Tulips are recommended to be planted in full sun, although they will also grow in shadier spots where their bright colour shines out among more muted spring flowers. My neighbours have a beautiful clump by a wall in their front garden in partial shade. However, what that spot does provide is shelter, and crucially well drained soil.


In the veg garden

THE seeds we planted a couple of weeks ago have begun to come through. Tomatoes, cucumber and courgette took less than a week to germinate, the seeds cosy on a warm windowsill under the shelter of a cover. The cover came off as soon as they came through, but they have been left in the same place to get stronger.

The broad beans, runner beans and beetroot are slower in the cooler greenhouse, but they need little in the way of heat and can really be put straight into the ground at this time of year. So ours are getting a little bit of fuss to get them going. Then we still need to do chard, French beans (climbing and dwarf) and leeks. There is plenty to do in the garden at this time of year.


Open gardens


In aid of the National Gardens Scheme

Langton Farm, Great Langton, Northallerton, DL7 0TA. A riverside garden with formal and informal gravel areas, mixed borders, pebble pool, nuttery, pear walk planted with double helix of Narcissus actaea, spring bulbs and blossom. Open 12pm-6pm, admission £4.

RHS Garden Harlow Carr, Crag Lane, Harrogate, HG3 1QB. Many things to see in this garden with spring bulbs, flowers and blossom, vegetable garden with beds edged with cuttings from dogwoods (an idea I am going to pinch), woodland, Gardens through Time, heathers, acers, streamside planting, alpine glasshouse and much more. Open 9.30am-5pm, admission £8.95 adult, £4.50 child.


Weekend catch-up...

WELL-organised gardeners will have planted dahlia tubers ages ago and are now be reaping the benefits by seeing them sprouting.

If, like me, you didn’t even get round to digging up your plants last autumn, don’t despair. I had a poke around my abandoned plants last weekend and found they had not only survived the winter but were beginning to show tiny signs of growth.

They were dug up as the space is needed for broad beans and moved to a different spot.

This is the sunniest place in the garden and a bench alongside the bed is where we sit in the last rays of the sun after getting home from work in the summer. Usually with a cup of tea, wine on Friday.

Anyway, these pleasures are to come. For the moment the dahlias have been moved to their new home and planted deep in well-dug soil.

After a good watering and sprinkle of slow release fertiliser, the area was covered with a loose layer of dry soil. This is a trick I learnt on a gardening course; it stops the moisture evaporating and also prevents wet soil forming a hard crust in warm, dry weather.

The spots are marked with canes and now we wait. These dahlias will be slower into growth and flower than those started off indoors, but they should still give a good show of blooms by mid to late summer.


Gardening TV and Radio


8am, BBC2, The Beechgrove Garden. Jim McColl plants heirloom vegetables.

8am, Vale Radio, William Jenkyns. William heads for more gardens from the NGS and continues his gardening clubs quest. Can Vale Radio visit your club? E-mail to register your interest.

8am, BBC Radio Humberside, The Great Outdoors. With Blair Jacobs and Doug Stewart.

9am, BBC Radio York, Julia Lewis. Gardening related news and features from around North Yorkshire.

9am, BBC Radio Leeds, Tim Crowther and Joe Maiden.

2pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. Eric Robson hosts a postbag edition of the programme.


3pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. Bunny Guinness, Anne Swithinbank, Matthew Wilson and chairman Peter Gibbs answer questions from an audience in South Devon.