Country & Garden: Weekend Work

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The Independent Culture
THE FIRST consignment of potted bulbs has been flowering in the kitchen for some weeks now. These are `Paperwhite' narcissi, small flowers but lots of them clustered on the stem and the smell outrageously swoony. They flower like clockwork, six weeks after planting. Too late for Christmas but, planted now, they will give a welcome boost to the New Year.

Check other potted bulbs, such as hyacinths, that are slower to develop. They should be kept in a cool place and not be allowed to dry out. Bring the bowls out of their cool, dark resting place when the flower spike is visible above ground. Mice can sometimes be a problem, nibbling the fresh new growth. Set traps if necessary.

Start to think about seed orders. There is a far wider selection in nurserymen's catalogues than you will ever find in a garden centre. I am still getting flowers on a snapdragon called `Purple King' (Thompson & Morgan pounds 1.49) which has spokes of vivid velvety purple flowers. It would have done even better if I had propped it up with some twiggy sticks before it started to flop, rather than after. I sowed the seed on 10 March and it germinated in 18 days. Do not cover the seed tray. The seed needs light to germinate.

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