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Create colourful containers

If the budget’s tight or your plot is tiny, potting up a large container with tulip bulbs in autumn will make a real impact the following Spring. The pot has to be rugged, either frost-proof terracotta, wood or stone, to withstand hard weather. Your compost has to be equally meaty and should contain loam to ballast the container and hold the nutrients. John Innes no.3 is an excellent choice. And you will need to pack your bulbs in more closely than you would in the garden.

Once planted it's important not to get the bulbs waterlogged. Either cover your container with a plywood sheet or similar, or put the container in a dry position, against a north-facing wall or in the lee of the house. Once the bulbs have been in the container for six weeks they will have begun to root and then can be put in situ. Then a covering of chicken wire will keep off marauding squirrels.

Containers are moveable feasts. Should next spring be very warm it’s possible to move your container to a shadier position so that the flowers last longer. This can be a real advantage.

Tulips do well in containers and the best scent of all belongs to a warm-orange lily-flowered tulip called 'Ballerina’. 'Veronique Sanson' is a similar colour to 'Ballerina’, but this Triumph tulip should flower two weeks earlier and be six inches shorter. Light the touchpaper colourwise and add the equally scented double early 'Margarita’ - a pink purple that will shine against 'Ballerina’.

Parrot tulips are also great in containers and they have the ability to change colour as their ruffled feather-like petals open, giving a long season of interest. 'Rococo’ is as stylish as its name suggests with carmine-red petals frosted in jade-green. The luscious 'Blue Parrot’ or the bronzed 'Ego Parrot’ are equally stunning whether grown alone or teamed up with small winter pansies or Anemone blanda

Stunning Tulip Recipes

When planting always choose some Triumph tulips. These flower in the second half of April, two weeks before the later tulips, giving you a longer tulip season. They are shorter than most, usually 40-45cm, so they add a more natural look to your planting. Triumphs are the most sought-after by the cut flower trade too, and their bright flowers are smaller and thicker-petalled to shrug off the weather. Top varieties include the pink 'Mistress’, the beetroot-purple and white flamed 'Rem’s Favourite’, the warm-red 'National Velvet’, the blackcurrant 'Havran’, the purple 'Negrita’ and the exotic-looking red and plum 'Couleur Cardinal’.

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