Typical situation, the Client asks me to plant up the big decorative pots with fresh bulbs ready for spring, but the summer bedding is nowhere near to being over.
What does the Gardener do?
Here's the dilemma - as you can see, this pot (one of a dozen) contains Gazania, and some lobelia, not looking particularly wonderful but rather better than the bare soil we will have if I clear them out now.
The Client doesn't want bare soil... but they want the bulbs planted now, ready for spring.
But I have a cunning plan.....
Using a trowel, I carefully scoop around each of the bedding plants, cutting out a section comfortably larger than the original rootball.
This is to retain as much of their current roots as possible.
You can feel the trowel cutting through roots as you go - if it slides in easily, then you know you are in the right place, but if there is resistance, then the roots have grown further than you thought!
Here are the individual plants, looking rather like the biggest plug plants you have ever seen.
Which I suppose they are.
I then empty out the top 8-10" of tired old compost, along with the surface weeds, and just scatter it over the nearest beds.
There's no nutrients left in it, but it still has a value as soil conditioner.
Having removed the top two-thirds of the pot's contents, I then added a fistful of the special bulb starter product that came with the bulbs.
Personally, I have doubts about whether it works or not, but the Client buys it, so I will use it.
I always put a thin layer of compost over the "fertiliser" layer so that the roots of the bulbs are not in direct contact with in, in case of "scorching".
Then in goes the first layer of bulbs, the big ones, in a ring.
These are a mix of tulips (Queen of Night, one of my favourites) and daffodils.
You'll note how few bulbs I've put in: not my choice, the Client instructed me to use only five per pot, and to mix them up within the pot. They don't like the pots to be a mad jumble of shapes and colours, they like the "few, but perfect" approach.
On top of those bulbs goes another layer of compost, about 2" deep, then on go the underplanting bulbs, crocus and allium.
As you can see, the little bulbs are more or less in the centre of the pot, and round the edge, which is now wider than it was for the tulip/daff layer, so that the large ones will grow straight up through the gap, and won't push the little ones out of the way.
And there you have it, the pots are suddenly smartened up and not bare, the bulbs are safely planted, and in another few weeks, the bedding can be simply pulled out without disturbing the bulbs.