September is peak bulb-planting time. There is a huge range available from any garden centre or on-line at the moment, so why not be a bit more adventurous and try something different – most are easy to grow and quite inexpensive.
Galanthus elwesii and G.woronowi are giant snowdrops for a shady corner, Crocus seiberi tricolor is a lovely little Crocus with lavender, yellow and white flowers in stripes, and at the other end of the spectrum, the new Rascal series of Crown Imperial fritillaries give a dramatic pop of March colour. Yellow daffodils are ubiquitous, but the little wild Narcissus lobularis is still the best for a roadside verge, while ice-white Thalia will naturalise in a shady corner. Tulip-planting is best left for a month or two, but do unpack them and let the bulbs breathe in a cool shady place, to stop mould attacking them.
For a rockery, some of the new Iris reticulata hybrids, such as Painted Lady or Alida, are lovely little things, as are the more recently-introduced grape hyacinths like Pink Sunrise or White Magic. And for a little later in the spring, there are some fine new Camassias around (though you can’t really beat the little blue Quamash, C. esculenta). Finally, we know gladioli are still out of fashion, but the little G.nanus varieties are well worth trying, much smaller and neater and in some lovely colour combinations for a late summer show.
This month, while the soil is still warm, is also the best time to sow hardy annuals for a display next year. Some, like poppies and sunflowers, are best sown direct where they are to flower. Others, such as borage (Borago officinalis), marigold (Calendula officinalis), Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) and larkspur (Consolida sp.), annual lupin and scabious (various strains of both are available) can be sown in trays now and planted out in spring.