A plant that can handle this year's long, icy spring is worth respecting. The crocus korolkowii 'Kiss of Spring' fits that bill, according to a trial that Which? Gardening carried out. Its lemony-gold cupped flowers are certainly attractive and, after appearing early in February, the plant managed to keep going during the bitterly cold spring.
I've almost given up on crocuses: they rarely stand up to the battering winds and rain. But I'll give this one a go, keeping it in a pot outside the kitchen window. I reckon small spring gems always do best in pots on a wall or windowsill, where you get a whiff of the scent. A loam-based compost makes the pot heavier and less likely to blow over.
Look out for the hyacinth 'Miss Saigon'. Its tightly packed crimson florets have the bonus of a slight scent, even though it's not as strong as that of the new narcissus, 'Galactic Star'. This daffodil really does stand out, with its wonderfully delicate-looking lemon yellow flowers. The petals are slightly more widely spaced than usual and aren't overwhelmed by the trumpets.
Galactic Star's flowers are short-lived, but they may last longer in a cool spring. Incidentally, treat the length of flowering claimed by nurserymen cautiously. As this summer has shown, blooms come early during a hot spell but are sadly over in the blink of an eye. Even if they don't open as fully in overcast weather, they'll last longer.
You'll get a lot of good ideas by visiting the National Trust for Scotland's Greenbank Garden this weekend. The garden is off Flenders Road, Clarkston, Glasgow, and is running its 27th Bulb Fair between 11am and 4.30pm today and tomorrow. Tomorrow, as part of Scotland's Garden Scheme, there's the added bonus of an advisory session starting at 2.30pm. Garden staff will be on hand to advise on how best to plant and look after bulbs.
The NTS property manager and head gardener David Ferguson tells me: "When we started our Bulb Fair, gardeners had to come to us for their bulbs. They still do so because we have some of the less common varieties that you won't find in an ordinary garden centre. Every year, we change our selection and always include some new and interesting bulbs."
One of this year's Greenbank collection is Leucojum aestivum 'Gravetye Giant'. This perennial is 90cm tall, with strap-like glossy, dark green leaves. The stems bear up to eight bell-shaped, slightly fragrant white flowers. Each is 2cm wide with green-tipped segments - a delightful bonus.
One plant that should be grown more often is allium. I know the ball-shaped flowers of some varieties are less than appealing, but Greenbank's 'Graceful Boy' is altogether different. With its stunning white florets and attractive purple stamens, it sits well in a trough with lower-growing plants to conceal its rather bare stem.
For me, the star of Ferguson's collection is crocus 'Orange Monarch'. Its outer petals are etched with a fine black fan that almost mimics the colouring of the orange monarch butterfly. Each corm produces three stems, each of which produces three flowers. As ever, I'd have this beauty in a pot, but I can imagine it would look attractive in large clumps in a border or lawn.
Whichever new bulbs you want, buy or order them now. The best will sell out quickly and you'll be left with 2nd class fare. You'll be planting most bulbs this month, but also be sure to order new tulips now, even though you won't be planting out for another month or so.