I'm hosting a dinner party this evening for 18 people. Most people would be worried about whether they got the food or drink right and what they would wear, I however, looked at the empty pot outside my front door with horror this morning and realised that I really needed to get them looking good for when my guests arrived.
I'm lucky enough to have a couple of Whichford pots which are excellent quality terracotta pots that have a 10 year guarantee on them. They are extremely stylish and have excellent large drainage holes at the bottom and each season I fill them with perennials, climbers and annuals to give me the longest break possible in between planting up. This afternoon I decided to do a layered planting, which would give me bursts of flower until next summer.
I started by mixing multipurpose compost with John Innes no 2 compost. This gives a secure base for the roots, but with enough drainage for the bulbs and plants that I was putting in for the winter season. I put crocks in the bottom to make sure the drainage was good, and put the pot on pot feet.
The first layer of bulbs are tulips and they need to be planted deeply so I only put a couple of centimetres of compost in the bottom of the pot before planting them. You can't really overdo it with tulips, the more the merrier and the beauty of using this layering system is that you don't have to worry whether all the plant colours complement each other because they will be flowering at different times of year so I've planted red and yellow striped tulips at the bottom.
On top of this is another layer of bulbs. Daffodils for early spring colour before the tulips come and lilies for when they finished. I'm not quite sure which variety they are as they are ones that were left hanging around in my truck. probably yellow tete a tete or white Thalia. the daffodil bulbs will be strong enough to push their way up through the root balls of the cyclamen which I'm planting over them but the lilies are more delicate so I'm placing the cyclamen in around where the shoots of the lilies are.
The last but most important step is to ensure that compost is pushed in around the rootballs of the cyclamen. You have to use your fingers and push the soil right down around the plants (you always need more than you think), and make sure that there is fresh compost between the pot wall and the root ball of the plants. This ensures that air pockets don't form which can allow the roots to dry out or freeze.
The cyclamen will last for a couple of months although they are not completely hardy. They don't mind cold temperatures as long as they don't get wet. However, as this is going to be on my doorstep hopefully it will be sheltered from the worst of the rain. I may water it if we get drying winds, but if I do, it won't be over the top of the cyclamen, which could cause botrytis (mould) on the corms, but will be around the base.
This is a new combination, last year I tried Muscari, Daffodils, Tulips and Nerines, and i've got Alliums and Tulips in my other pot. - What combinations have you tried to get the longest flowering from one planting?