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10 bulbs to plant this autumn for a stunning spring and summer display

Hannah Stephenson chooses eye-catching bulbs to plant soon for a riot of colour next year.

Suddenly it’s bulb planting time, when gardeners start making space for some serious colour next spring and beyond.

Whether you’re going to online specialists, nurseries or your local garden centre, there should be a cornucopia of colourful choices and new collections, to fill every space from a huge plot to just a patio pot.

Check out 10 of the best…

1. Iris reticulata ‘Spot On’ (10 bulbs, £3.90, Farmer Gracy; farmergracy.co.uk)

These pint-sized velvety beauties bring a wow factor in pots and rockeries, where their delicate but dramatic violet-purple standards, and striped and spotted white falls can be appreciated. They look stunning in shallow metal containers surrounded by matching blue and white violas, flowering in early spring. Place them in sandy soil in full sun to give them the best chance of success, although they will take partial shade.

2. Delft Pot Collection (£20, Broadleigh Bulbs; broadleighbulbs.co.uk)

If you love a haze of blue and white and are looking to fill a pot or two, this new collection of blue hyacinths, white anemones and creamy tulips, along with other cool and striking bulbs, should fit the bill. Designed for a 12-14in pot, the long lasting collection includes Hyacinth ‘Blue Jacket’, Anemone blanda ‘White Splendour’, Muscari ‘armeniaicum’, Narcissus ‘Toto’ and Tulip ‘Exotic Emperor’.

3. Tulipa ‘Fly Away’ (8 bulbs, £6.99, Suttons; suttons.co.uk)

New to the Suttons bulb range, this sizzling tulip produces distinctive red and hot orange-yellow blooms on sturdy, upright stems that create a fiery colour statement in any garden. Best planted in full sun or semi-shade, these lily-flowered eye-catching gems grow to around 50cm (20in), flowering from April to May. They’re ideal for beds and borders or in pots on the patio. Cut some for indoors to make a beautiful spring flower arrangement.

4. Muscari ‘Grape Ice’ (8 bulbs, £4.99, Taylors Bulbs; taylors-bulbs.com)

Fancy a change from regular purple or white muscari? Then you could plump for this unusual two-tone variety, which features purple flowers with white caps. On the RHS Perfect for Pollinators list, they flower in March and April, growing to 15cm. Grow them en masse for best effect, preferably in a plethora of pots where their diminutive stature won’t be drowned out by anything else.

5. Narcissus ‘Cassata’ (10 bulbs, £7.99, Crocus, crocus.co.uk)

New from Crocus, these split corona daffodils provide a creamy backdrop of outer petals contrasting with deeper lemon inner petals and have received the RHS Award of Garden Merit. They grow to between 12-14cm, flowering from March to April. Plant the bulbs 10-15cm (4-6in) deep from late summer to early autumn.

6. Narcissus ‘Miss Muffet’ (5 bulbs, £3.10, Broadleigh Bulbs; broadleighbulbs.co.uk)

Flowering in February and March and growing to 28cm (11 in), this new dwarf trumpet daffodil from Broadleigh is pure yellow and is brilliant for naturalising, perfect in pots to perk up your patio and also great if you have space to fill at the front of the border.

7. Tulipa ‘Pretty Love’ (8 bulbs, £3.99, Taylors Bulbs; taylors-bulbs.com)

This beautiful lily-flowered tulip grows to 50cm (20in) and produces striking fluted shaped bright pink flowers which bloom in late April and early May. They look fabulous as stand-alone specimens in a pot or in a mixed planting scheme in a border. Their long-lasting blooms are also great for cutting.

8. Scilla peruviana ‘Sapphire Blue’ (2 plus 1 free bulb, £19.98, Crocus; crocus.co.uk)

Also known as Portuguese squill bulbs or hyacinths of Peru, these beauties produce masses of amethyst blue flowers above stout stems, thriving in full sun or partial shade. They are perfect for brightening beds, front borders and containers with their sprays of blue flowers.

9. Ranunculus ‘Picotee Cafe’ (10 bulbs, £5.90, Farmer Gracy; farmergracy.co.uk)

If you’re after more unusual bulbs with rich colours, try these stunning Persian buttercups whose frilly peony-shaped double blooms appear in warm shades of orange, gold, bronze, terracotta, coffee and chocolate. While they are ideally planted in autumn in mild areas, if you live in a cold spot you may need to provide some protection during hard frosts, covering pots in horticultural fleece or placing polytunnels over those planted in the ground.

Alternatively plant them in early spring for later blooms, which will come into their own in summer when other spring blooms have faded. The stems reach around 30cm, so will fit well in the front of the border or in containers. Originally bred for the cut flower trade, the blooms are bigger than more common ranunculus and do well in vases if you want to cut some for indoors.

10. Lilium ‘Orange Marmalade’ (2 bulbs £4.99, Taylors Bulbs; taylors-bulbs.com)

Nothing like the showy pink and cream oriental lilies which are familiar figures in borders and pots in late summer, this vibrant orange hybrid, a new addition to the Taylors range, grows to 80cm (32in), producing dainty star-shaped fragrant flowers in summer. What’s different is that the flowerheads are much smaller than some of the showier lilies, but can multiply to 30 or more stems per head.

How to make the most of a multi-use kitchen that also needs to be used for eating, lounging and living

These clever design tips will help you maximise your cooking-cum-living space, however compact.

In today’s property market, space is a commodity in short supply. From shoebox-sized studio flats in Victorian conversions to ‘snug’, purpose-built semis on suburban estates, people are increasingly finding themselves cooking in mixed-use spaces – ones which sometimes double as dining, living, or even bedrooms.

But however minimal your living space is, several tried and tested tricks can help you make the most out of your kitchen area, without compromising the rest of your home…

1. Use furniture to divide spaces

Large items of furniture can provide effective buffer zones between areas that are for eating and areas that are for cooking. Sofas have long been a go-to room divider – providing a clear, functional barrier that doesn’t block the eye line. Defining the kitchen area by adding a dining table ensures you can cook and socialise at the same time.

2. Put the kitchen in the corner

Corners are often neglected – partly because right angles can be hard to use – but kitchens are tailor-made to sit snugly in otherwise dead space. Arrange kitchen cupboards and surfaces around a corner to create a functional, out-of-the-way area where you can cook unimpeded, and leave the floor free for tables, TVs and chairs.

3. Have a clear centrepiece

Mixed-use spaces can easily start to feel chaotic and lacking in boundaries, but a single, eye-catching centrepiece will help lend the room a sense of focus and order. A dining room table, a multi-piece settee, or a widescreen television are all easy to build a room around if granted a central location, drawing focus away from crowded kitchen surfaces or that large, humming fridge.

4. Embrace minimalism

Small spaces can easily feel cluttered, and kitchens are magnets for rarely used pieces of bric-a-brac and outmoded appliances. Do you really have space for that almost-empty spice rack, never-used pile of cookbooks, or the avocado slicer you received as a Secret Santa gift back in 2016? In your kitchen-cum-living-room-cum-whatever else you’re using it for, the answer is probably no.

5. Use a light colour palette

It’s the oldest rule in the interior designer’s handbook – lighter shades make a room feel airy, bright and breezy, while darker colours will make it look smaller and more claustrophobic. Go for white, beige or pale greys to create the illusion of space.

6. Consider a kitchen island

They’re not cheap, but kitchen islands can divide a space beautifully, doubling as a dining table (if you don’t have one). They can also provide invaluable extra storage space beneath the worktop. Plus, in today’s modern, minimalist, IKEA-influenced world, kitchen islands are always on trend.

7. Use light to demarcate space

It’s not just furniture that can make different parts of a space feel different – accent lighting is a must for mixed-use rooms. Desk lamps and hanging lights can illuminate specific parts of a room, drawing focus or ensuring they feel separate and contrasting.

Our pick of the best late summer days out

Dive into a wealth of family friendly activities on offer before autumn arrives, says Sarah Marshall.

In a flash, it feels like summer is over – or did it ever really begin? But with a bank holiday to look forward to on Monday August 30 and hopefully some remaining warm days to enjoy, there’s still a chance to make the most of outdoor events, last-minute pop-ups and special seasonal festivals.

Brush up on art appreciation with an immersive exhibition about Van Gogh or take a steam train through Staffordshire on the world’s most scenic beer crawl. And rest assured even if it rains, the show will go on.

Surround yourself with art

Step into a haze of sunflowers or embrace a starry night in an immersive art exhibition dedicated to the artist Van Gogh. Set up inside the old stable yard of The Old Truman Brewery in London’s East End, the alternative art exhibition features 300 of the legendary Dutch painter’s sketches, drawing and paintings, all displayed using 360-degree digital projections.

Visitors can take part in a VR experience following a 10-minute journey through the artist’s life or unleash any flourishes of creativity in a drawing studio. Tickets cost from £19.90 for adults and £11.50 for children. Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience runs until February 2022. Visit vangoghexpo.com

Soak up the fun

Even if the bank holiday weather turns out to be nothing more than a damp squib, there’s plenty of opportunity to make a splash at Aqua Park’s inflatable obstacle course in Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight. There are more than 20 challenges to tackle, including slippery climbing walls, giant free-fall slides and big bouncy balls.

Wetsuits are available to keep out the cold and there’s a spectator area for those who prefer to cheer from the side-lines. One-hour sessions cost £20, including a buoyancy aid and wetsuit. Book in advance online at tapnellfarm.com. Wightlink, who operate ferries from Portsmouth and Lymington, are running a Kids Go Free offer on August 30. Visit wightlink.co.uk

Do the bear necessities

Born in 1915, toy historian William Simpson was an avid teddy bear collector. Up until his death eight years ago, the Dorset resident amassed 269 cuddly bears, each dressed in handmade clothes and given a different name and personality.

Saved from gathering dust in an attic, they are now on display as part of a new exhibition at Hampshire’s Milestones Museum – accompanied by cards handwritten by Mr Simpson to explain their individual backgrounds. Heart-warming and whimsical, the collection also raises discussions about our own obsession with teddy bears.

Completing the nostalgic picture, are a selection of vintage sweet stores and Edwardian shop fronts lining a route of recreated streets from the 1930s and 1940s. Tickets cost from £16.50 for adults and £10.75 for children; family £48.50. Visit milestonesmuseum.org.uk

Keep on the rails

All aboard the beer train! Serving up the perfect solution to avoid drink driving, Staffordshire’s Real Ale Trail is a pub crawl connected by rail. Travelling through the Churnet Valley on a heritage locomotive, the 5.5 mile journey claims to be the longest beer festival in the world.

Passengers can watch the countryside roll by while sampling a selection of 30 lagers and ales made along the route, either pulling up a stool at the train’s bar or revelling in the splendour or their 1950s carriage. A main bar is also set up at Froghall station, along with live bands. Diesel trains run throughout the day on August 28 and 29, with a steam service at 16.30; its full steam ahead on August 30. Tickets cost from £8 for adults and £6 for children Visit churnetvalleyrailway.co.uk

A day and knight to remember

Resurrecting medieval ruins with fun and frivolity, Warwick Castle make history thoroughly entertaining with their festivals and special events. This summer, they’ve launched a new outdoor cinema, a revamped Horrible Histories Maze brought to life by authentic 19th century vile smells, and an interactive trail starring Zog the friendly dragon who can help children learn how to fly, breathe fire and sword fight at Dragon School.

Between August 26-30, there are plenty of grown-up games too as part of a Sundown Spectacular (separate tickets cost £25). Listen to DJs and live bands while dining on street food as the towers dazzle with illuminations and a fireworks display. Day tickets from £20 per person. Visit warwick-castle.com

Picnic like a prince

It’s been a topsy-turvy year for the royals, but that hasn’t stopped the Queen from letting everyone into her backyard. This summer, for the first time in the palace’s history, the 39-acre gardens of Buckingham Palace are open to the public for self-guided tours and picnics. Famous features to look out for include a lake filled with three million gallons of water, attracting a riot of birdlife, the royal bees who produce honey for the Palace’s gift shop, and a Rose Garden with 25 beds of roses. The gardens will be open until September 19. Tickets cost £16.50 for adults and £9 for children. Visit rct.uk

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