Saturday, 24 March 2007


( Click on the title for the Royal Horticultural society website)

I mostly shy away from anything that resembles a club. I suppose the phrase by one of the Marx brothers still rings in my ears about not wanting to join a club that would have me as a member. The last club that I went to was the cub scouts when I was eight. I left after the second week after a tall person with a woggle told me that I had to buy a uniform. Me in a uniform? No way, I was going to wear what everyone else my age was wearing and be different!

When I got to the Wesley hall, thankfully no one was in a uniform. There was a good turn out of about twenty or so people and after a brief introduction where the minutes of the last meeting were mentioned; it was down to business with some seasonal tips. One that I liked was about putting leaves in dustbin liner bags to rot down as compost for next year. The woman that mentioned this stressed that you should always remember where you leave them as she lost hers in the garden last year!

The speakers name was Derek Turbett and he was here to talk to us about spring bulbs and to give us a slide show of the pictures he has taken over the years, which were very professional. I confess I did fall into a daydream a few times during the evening (some people might say that I fell asleep, which I strongly deny!) When Derek started to talk in-depth about daffodils, in which he specialises, I found I drifted off a bit but thankfully I didn’t fall off my seat.

Here are a few topics that Derek covered.

One of the earliest bulbs to flower are the snowdrops. If you want to have some for the garden you will be better to wait until the beginning of march and approach a friend with some in their garden. When the flowers have gone over, or finished flowering, a clump can be dug out to put in your own garden, the technical term is getting them “in the green”, dig down about six inches, this will stop you chopping into the bulbs. Derek recommended that you didn’t buy the bulbs from garden centres if they have dried up as you wont get good results. Sometimes specialist bulbs are available and you can pay up to 4 euro for a single bulb.

Crocus bulbs will go to seed in April to May and if you are ambitious you can plant the seeds straight away. You have to be patient though as it takes up to four years before a flower appears.

Bluebells are a welcome sight in woodland areas in the spring. Derek told us that he dug some up from a spoil heap a few years ago and has been trying to get rid of them ever since. He has light, sandy soil and they are quickly taking over his garden. An interesting point that I wasn’t aware of is that there are two different types of bluebell, the native one that has the bell flowers on just one side of the stem. The other is a very invasive fast spreading one that originated from Spain; the bells on these stems go all the way around.

As I mentioned earlier, Derek is a specialist in daffodils. He is a member of the Northern Ireland daffodil group and has travelled the world with his bulbs. One bulb that he produced is called the Causeway sunset and each bulb costs 80 euro each to buy (if you are interested)! You can’t mass-produce daffodil bulbs, you have to plant a bulb and dig it up the following year and hope that the bulb has divided. The process is then repeated until you have built up a stock. The reason these bulbs are so expensive is because there were only ten to sell. There are 24,000 different daffodil bulbs that are registered (you can read the list if you go on to the R.H.S site). Anyone can grow his or her own unique daffodil. Take the fluffy bit from the centre of a daffodil and use this to tickle inside the flower of another different type of daffodil and wait until the seeds are ripe. Grow the seeds and after four years of waiting patiently you will have a few bulbs that will produce original flowers. The reason for the 24,000 different types is that the slightest difference between a flower, be it a slightly thicker stem or the head tilting a fraction more than another would make it different from any other.

When putting daffodil bulbs into pots for a spring display, they can be put in at different depths and as long as you plant the same variety they will all flower at the same time. The bulbs can be dug up when the leaves have died down to separate the new bulbs. These can be pulled off and replanted.


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