The 71-year-old has become one of the nation’s most popular gardener and is always on hand – and on TV – to show a wealth of tips for budding green fingered people to take in and enjoy outdoors. From “Gardener’s World” to “Ground Force”Alan has become a national treasure – above all thanks to his warm nature and brilliant garden analysis. And in 2018, when Alan wrote for Country Life, he showed his knowledge again by advising gardeners the best plant to bring in for Christmas – and how to keep it going.
He wrote: “Timing is everything and the enthusiastic gardener will plant batches of ‘prepared’ bulbs (heat treatment to promote faster flowering) at weekly intervals from late September to late October to offer a flower presentation that will last well into the New Year stops in.
“Paperwhite and Grand Soleil d’Or narcissi are happy with a much shorter period of cool and dark conditions and usually bloom 6 to 10 weeks after planting. Bring them indoors when they are 3 to 4 inches from the compost.
“These thoughts are of course for the next year, but if you buy ready-made pots with Christmas bulbs or receive them as gifts, how do you maintain them in today’s centrally heated houses?
“If you keep them as bright as possible (preferably on a windowsill) and as cool as possible, they will last the longest.”
Alan, once so respected that he had the honor of renovating former South African President Nelson Mandela’s garden, said that these types of light bulbs would need support to thrive.
The author, who also participated in programs for ITV, added: “All of these bulbs need some kind of support. Three or four split green sticks, which are pushed around the edge of the pot and looped around with garden yarn, form an enclosure for the extending one Stems of the daffodils.
“Hyacinths are best supported with more brutal means. As soon as the flowers open, push a 10 to 12 inch piece of stiff wire through the center of the flower stem and straight through the bulb until it disappears from view and is invisible even though the bulbs damage will not affect flowering. “
“‘Paperwhite’ is ivory white and ‘Soleil d’Or’ bright golden yellow and both are exquisitely fragrant.
“Choose a clay pot with a diameter of about 30 cm and fill it three-quarters with peat-free multi-purpose compost.
“Put the lightbulbs on so that they touch and fill them with more compost, gently pushing them between the lightbulbs.”