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Planting an exciting array of bulbs and corms is on top of this month’s gardening agenda and with luck, garden supply shops should now have a range of newly imported varieties on offer.

Bulbs and corms can be cultivated in pots or directly in prepared, well-drained ground. If growing bulbs and corms in pots, then use a mixture of 60% top quality compost, preferably organic, 20% sweet soil and 20% river sand. But do remember to first put a two-inch layer of gravel or pot shards inside the bottom of the pot to ensure that drainage is not obstructed. Bulbs and corms quickly rot away if the growing medium becomes water logged.

Bulbs and corms to look out for now include the following: alliums, amaryllis, anemones, crinum, crocus, cyclamen, daffodils, Dutch hyacinths, Dutch iris, freesias, gladioli, grape hyacinths, lilies, montbretia, narcissus, nerine, ranunculus, sparaxis, tulips and zephyranthes.

When choosing bulbs and corms check them over thoroughly. Avoid any which appear overly dry or are soft to touch; the former are unlikely to grow and the latter may be diseased. Also avoid purchasing any which have developed new growth of any size; imported lily bulbs often have quite a bit of new, sappy growth and rarely, having used up their strength prematurely, grow into quality plants.

If opting to cultivate imported European bulbs and corms in places such as Karachi and Lahore, it is imperative that they are grown out of direct sunlight if you want the flowers to last more than a single day.

Bulb and corm prices vary tremendously but a rough guide is about Rs 60 per daffodil, narcissus and tulip bulb; Rs 15-20 per crocus and iris; Rs 150-200 per Dutch hyacinth bulb.

— Zahrah Nasir

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on October 23, 2011