Wide awake recently at 2am, sweltering under the fan, I began to dream of spring.
Cool mornings and dew on the lawn, scarlet japonica, bright gold jasmine, and bulb leaves pushing up through the damp earth.
Bulb growers must be telepathic. Within days our mailbox was flooded with enticingly colourful catalogues. I’m now poring over their offerings with my usual reckless disregard for budget, available garden space and climatic suitability.
Nurseries don’t normally carry spring flowering bulbs until March and they don’t need to be planted until April, but mail order means you can buy now and get exactly what you ordered – always a happy place to be.
Crocuses are among the first bulbs to flower in my garden, their shiny small goblets opening out on sunny days from mid-August onwards.
Coming from the cooler regions of the Northern Hemisphere they dislike heat but are happy in Tableland areas above 600 metres. They need cool soil and winter sun and do best when planted deeply in the shade of deciduous shrubs or trees.
Vogelvry Flower Bulbs have a range including ‘Advance’ in subtle shades of brown and pale yellow, purple ‘Remembrance’ and prettily striped, mauve and white ‘Pickwick’.
If you’d like to grow your own saffron, Vogelvry also offer Saffron crocus (C. sativus). Violet flowers contain three scarlet stigmas that are the source of the elusive food flavour and colour.
A price tag of $2.75 per bulb, works out at approximately equal to the price of dried saffron threads from the deli. But it would be fun to try a few, if for no reason than to see how much the taste differs.
From a slightly tricky bulb to one we can all grow, no garden is complete without late-spring flowering Dutch Iris (Iris x xiphium), the bulbous relations of our old friends, the Tall Beardeds.
If you have never grown Dutch Iris, sky blue ‘Professor Blaauw’, snowy ‘Casablanca’ and lemon and bluish white ‘Apollo’ are all vigorous, easy and multiply satisfactorily fast.
Having grown and loved all these for years, I’m now trying some of the exciting new hybrids with a longer garden and vase life.
Van Diemen Quality Bulbs situated on Tasmania’s fertile north coast are currently offering a stunning array of Dutch Iris in glowing shades of burgundy, blue and bronze that remind me of the glorious 17th century flower paintings of their Netherlandic forebears.
All are mouth-watering, but I’m restraining myself to deep crimson ‘Red Ember’, bronze and gold ‘Autumn Princess’ and orange-blue ‘Mystic Beauty’.
Van Diemen also offer a couple of colour-themed groups, blue/white and gold/white, for an eye catching display in a spare sunny corner.
Finish your bulb flowering season with something blue. Ankle-high Californian, Tritelia ‘Queen Fabiola’ blooms in late November – the perfect companion for peachy-gold hybrid tea rose ‘Just Joey’.
For mail order spring bulb catalogues, try: Van Diemen Quality Bulbs, 36 Table Cape Road, Wynyard, Tasmania 7325; Vogelvry Flower Bulbs, Box 369, New Norfolk, Tasmania 7140; Garden Express, Reply Paid, 68541 Monbulk, Victoria 3793.