It’s bulb-planting time. Fill every container, plant every spare inch of soil so that when spring comes everyone will be pleased (even the hard-hearted are softened by the sheer exuberance that bulbs bring on a grey day).
Head to the garden centre and you want fat, healthy bulbs with no sign of mould or withering. Buy as many as you can afford and plant densely; the best displays are always packed.
Pack your bulbs cheek by jowl into pots – you can get four tulip bulbs (five, at a push) in a five-litre pot; the same for large daffodils and a few more for small varieties. For window-ledge displays and windy balconies, go for small bulbs that will take a battering: snowdrops, crocus, grape hyacinths, Muscari species and dwarf daffodils. The added bonus is you won’t have to bend down on wet soil to enjoy their delicate ways.
If you want them permanently in the ground (or pots), go for bulbs that are reliable returnees: daffodils that are known to bulk up and naturalise, such as the native Tenby daffodil (Narcissus obvallaris), or any pheasant eye types (N. poeticus var recurvus), crocus and Muscari species are just a few. There are several reliable tulip cultivars that will return each year, ‘Purissima’ and ‘Spring Green’ being two of the more easy ones to find.
Also, plant your bulbs a little deeper than the old “three times their depth” rule, because you don’t want to disturb them when digging a hole for a new plant later on. Lay them out first before planting, so you can get the distribution right, and use your sharpest hand trowel for planting, because many bulbs equal tired wrists.