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Spring was in the air when our speaker, Tim Woodland came to talk about container planting with bulbs.

Tim started his career in agriculture and farm management but eventually joined Winchester bulb growers and worked his way into packing management of dry bulbs. He now works with a mail order company but comes from the marketing side.

The advantage of container planting means that you are in control of the container, soil and position in your garden.

Bulbs like free draining soil and generally don’t like being too wet.


Tim was very knowledgeable about dahlias and the different types. These days the garden centres tend to stock bulbs for the ‘impulse buyer’ focusing on fragrance, dwarf habit, patio types and attracting pollinators which means that some varieties are harder to find or may only be available online.

Dahlias don’t like cold soil so they should never be planted out until the soil has warmed up although they can be started off in pots in a greenhouse. Some dahlias will overwinter if they have been covered with mulch. They don’t need lots of fertiliser but they do need phosphate and potash which seems to be the rule for most bulbs.

Tim advised that when the bulb has finished flowering, and only the leaves are left, that is the time to feed it so that it can perform better next year. Always remember to water dahlias in containers and remember to dead head to prolong flowering.


With lilies, the bigger the bulb the more flowers you are likely to get although smaller bulbs will also produce flowers. They do like cold soil and are some of the hardiest of the cut flowers. Again, they don’t like being waterlogged.

Apparently we don’t buy as many lilies as we should. Some people are put off by the prospect of the lily beetle but Tim recommended just picking them off and said that eventually you will beat them. He also said that he has two cats and it’s only when a cat ingests the pollen that it can be dangerous. There are many types of lily including oriental, longiflorum, martigan ( good for shady areas) and doubles.

Tim mentioned lots of other bulb types including cannas, begonias, gladioli, eucomis, nerine and ranunculus. Cannas like heat so start them off in a greenhouse whereas gladioli in all its forms are hardy and should come back every year.

Finally with regard to soil structure, Tim recommended planting them in John Innes no 2 or 3 with handfuls of grit which provides good drainage and remember to label them!

Our next speaker on the 24th of May is Gillian Taylor who will be talking about ‘The Love of Roses’. We meet at 7.30 at Upper Clatford village hall.

Tea and refreshments are provided.

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