The 71-year-old has become one of the nation’s most beloved gardeners and is always on hand – and television – to show off an abundance of tips for budding green fingered people to take on and enjoy outdoors. From ‘Gardener’s World’ to ‘Ground Force’, Alan has become a national treasure – thanks in most part to his warm manner and brilliant garden analysis. And in 2018, while writing for Country Life, Alan once again showed off his knowledge by advising gardeners the best plant to bring inside at Christmas – and how to keep them flourishing.
He wrote: “Timing is everything and the keen gardener will plant batches of ‘prepared’ bulbs (given heat treatment to encourage faster flowering) at weekly intervals from late September to late October to offer a floral display that will last well into the New Year.
“Paperwhite and Grand Soleil d’Or narcissi are happy with a much shorter period of cool and dark conditions and will generally flower 6–10 weeks after planting. Bring them indoors when they’ve pushed 3in–4in) clear of the compost.
“These thoughts are for next year, of course, but if you buy ready-grown pots of Christmas-flowering bulbs, or are given them as a present, how do you look after them in today’s centrally heated homes?
“Keeping them in as bright a light as possible (on a windowsill, for preference) and as cool as is comfortable for you to live in will make them last longest.”
Alan, who was once so highly regarded he was given the honour of renovating former South African president Nelson Mandela’s garden, explained that those types of bulbs would need support to flourish.
The author, who has also appeared on programmes for ITV, added: “All these flowering bulbs need some form of support. Three or four split green canes pushed around the edge of the pot and looped around with garden twine will make an enclosure for the extending stems of the narcissi.
“Hyacinths are best supported by more brutal means. As soon as the flowers begin to open, push a 10in–12in piece of stiff wire down through the centre of the flower stalk and right through the bulb until it disappears from view. The support will be invisible and, although the bulbs will be damaged, flowering will not be affected.”
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While discussing the topic of Christmas, Alan also once exposed what he believed would be a perfect garden present for those looking to give gifts around the festive period.
In 2017, Alan wrote in the Daily Express, that a “potful of bulbs” would be enough to spark a new gardener’s affections with their backyard.
He concluded: “It’s too late to expect them to be in flower for the festive season but there are a couple of narcissi that grow rapidly and which, when given in the early stages of growth, are as acceptable as when they are in bloom.
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“‘Paperwhite’ is ivory white and ‘Soleil d’Or’ a bright golden yellow and both are exquisitely scented.
“Choose a clay pot about 56in in diameter and three-quarters fill it with peat-free multipurpose compost.
“Sit the bulbs on top, so that they are touching, and fill around them with more compost, pushing it lightly between the bulbs.”
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