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Plant bulbs for a future reward | gardening tips

On a dreich winter morning, the darkness hesitates to rise. The rain has been incessant for days. But there is digging to do. Or, at least, an unexpected late planting.

For the first time in 15 years, we succumbed to spring bulbs on the plot. We had been a bit sniffy before. The flowers we grow there have always been annuals, grown from seed.

We use classic companion plants: mainly nasturtium and calendula – cheerful children’s flowers. Memories in the form of marigold. Howard and I gradually added more marigolds: scarlet Ildkongen and, this year, a classic old-school tall orange. Plus morning glory and lots of sunflowers.

But so far, never, never blisters. Perhaps it was a purist idea that the allocations were for food. Maybe just because we grow tulips and narcissus on the roof terrace. But this year I felt a deep need for color as an antidote to gloom.

So one morning in November – after first clearing the idea with Howard – I find myself at my local garden center looking for daffodils. I stock up on pheasant eye, my favorite narcissus, with white petals with an orange-red cut. I add Narcissus Thalia “selected for woods and shade”, a delicate white with “slightly twisted” petals. Three packs each of seven bulbs.

The next day, a bit addicted now, I come back for Sweetness golden yellow, yellow and orange Kedron, and Doll Baby, a white with an apricot heart. Others I wanted all sold.

So early Sunday morning at the plot in heavy winter rain. Soaked and dripping. We settled on three small sites of about 20 bulbs each. In opposite corners and a place closer to the center.

We are cleaning. We plant. We are comically soaked. Howard leaned forward like an elegant bird. He plants with one hand, holding an umbrella.

It’s a quick job. We will soon pay attention to light bulbs that cross. The beginning of spring on the plot will have fragrance and color.

Allan Jenkins’ Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 at


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