Until I gardened with bulbs, I used to think only of the wistful, melancholy spirit of autumn, the winding down of ever shorter days, and the constant damp which seems to pervade the whole garden.
I still do, but I can usually bring myself to heel and even welcome the approach of winter when I think of what it can bring.
Just now, there is so much matter to convey, so much smell and texture and movement, that I think only painting and colour photography can encompass it all.
Take the tulip Spring Green as an example. This has classical, ivory white, bowl-shaped flowers, each petal of which is delicately feathered with a central stripe of soft green.
The flowers appear in May on stems that grow up to about 15 inches amid leaves that elongate to a foot or so.
Its delicate beauty is much appreciated by flower arrangers, but it earns its place in my garden as a component in blue glazed pots stood near to the back door with more in and around sheltered seating areas.
The pots, once filled, are topped with Forget-Me-Nots and Primulas and these give interesting evergreen foliage all through winter.
‘Spring Green’ is easily sourced now and found at any outlet specialising in spring bulbs.
Plant these up to and including late December.
One of the secrets to overwintering semi-tender plants in the open is to leave all their top-growth in place until the beginning of April.
I’m thinking now of Salvias, Lobelia Cardinalis, Penstemons and Fuchsias for many, once they get to a certain size, will come through the winter unharmed.
From an aesthetic point of view the exercise may be a disaster but those frosted and dead-looking remains can indeed give protection to their crowns lower down.
Once spring arrives, you then take out all the old material except for any fresh green found low down at ground level.
If you must bring tender plants in under cover from outside, lift carefully (avoid breaking the root-ball) and place in an unheated greenhouse or frame.
Revive in spring by re-potting, feeding and watering.