We’re all buying next spring’s bulbs just now to plant in pots, for naturalising in grassland or in a border.

Planting in a border is undoubtedly easiest. We save a bit of money by not having to buy compost for containers, and don’t have to agonise over when to cut the grass.

Premature mowing removes the foliage before it’s finished feeding the bulbs for next year. And bulbs brighten up any border year after year before the herbaceous company gets going.

However, if you live in a more rural part of the country, you might find, like me, that badgers and squirrels are regular visitors to the garden. Sadly these cuddly creatures have a taste for bulbs, especially tulips. In pots I can lay wire net just below the surface to prevent them liberally spreading compost all over the terrace while searching for the bulbs.

But with the exception of Tulipa sylvestris I have had to give up planting tulips in the borders.

Most of the bulbs available in garden centres and by mail order settle nicely in a border with relatively free-draining soil and cope well beneath deciduous shrubs or small trees before bud burst. Many of our species originate in open woodland edge or on Mediterranean hillsides where the soil is still moistened by winter rains and the sun hasn’t yet shrivelled vegetation.

A bulb’s foliage is critical when choosing what to plant in a border. It’s so easy to be beguiled by the beauty of a bulb’s flower without thinking about the size and spread of the foliage.

It will be around for much longer than the flower. Large-leaved daffodils will collapse and potentially smother their surrounding companions, so are best avoided.

Similarly, some grape hyacinths, muscari, have broad leaves that loll around and ruin the appearance of that part of the border.

The earliest flowering bulbs are mostly quite petite so should be at the front of the border. Species crocus like Crocus tommasinianus, C. flavus and C. chrysanthus all have fine, grass-like leaves that die back early and cause little trouble, as does Fritillaria meleagris.

And Scillas, S. bifolia and S. siberica, only have a few basal leaves.

Then there are species like Anemone blanda and Eranthis hyemalis, winter aconite, that have very attractive leaves as do the cyclamens.

While it is good when our plants are happy enough to spread, some can overdo it. So avoid putting snowdrops and English bluebells in the border unless you are prepared to ruthlessly reduce the clumps.

Plant of the week

Barberry, Berberis vulgaris, fruits are ripe and ready to pick. The oval, orange-red berries hang in pretty clusters; they taste quite tart and are best in savoury dishes adding a lemony astringency. You might find some at the Scottish Wild Food Festival (G63 0NF) this weekend.