You have probably planted most of your spring bulbs by now, but it's not too late to add tulips to the mix, ready to create a riot of colour next season.
With this in mind, Consumers' Association magazine Which? Gardening has been scouring the country to ask head gardeners exactly how they achieve their show-stopping tulip displays.
In RHS Garden Harlow Carr in Harrogate, North Yorkshire they use a sizzling combination of Tulipa 'Ballerina' (orange), 'Queen of Night' (dark purple) and 'Jan Reus' (dark red).
Garden manager Alison Goding explains: "The Triumph tulip 'Jan Reus' starts flowering in April and is 50cm high, while 'Queen of Night' and 'Ballerina' flower in May and are 60cm high, so the overall display has more depth and lasts a bit longer."
The tulips are in a raised bed filled with topsoil, mixed with garden compost and grit to improve drainage and bulbs are planted at a depth of three to four times the size of the bulb, 15cm apart.
A cooler theme is adopted at the Dorothy Clive Garden in Market Drayton, Shropshire (www.dorothyclivegarden.co.uk), combining white tulips 'Purissima' with masses of soft blue forget-me-nots and Allium 'Purple Sensation', which appear in late spring.
Margaret Barry, deputy curator of the garden, says: "This 'cool' theme is pleasing on the eye due to the limited tones of colour.
"The varying textures also make this display appealing: a fluffy carpet of forget-me-nots punctuated by strong, linear stems supporting symmetrical blooms."
The gardeners change the bed every year and in spring 2014 will be offering a vibrant display of 'Purple Flag', 'Christmas Orange' and 'Christmas Marvel' (cerise pink), with an underplanting of deep-blue 'Sylva' forget-me-nots, which don't tend to self-seed as much as other varieties.
If you want ideas for stunning pots of tulips, look no further than Rousham in Oxfordshire (www.rousham.org), where you can see amazing displays of majestic purple tulips, interspersed with pots of white ones. Varieties include 'Jackpot' (purple with white edge), 'Snowstar' (white), 'Ronaldo' (stocky purple-red), 'Havran' (tall dark purple) and 'Ballade' (pink with white edge).
Head gardener Ann Starling says: "I started with purple varieties then added others. I first staged the tulips in pots like this about eight years ago. I repeat it each year because it works, and purple is a different colour for spring.
"We empty the pots of their summer plantings then fill them with 15-25 bulbs each. The pots are sometimes put into coldframes in cold weather. If you do shelter planted-up pots in this way be careful, as you have to water them."
Square containers work as well as round pots for tulip displays, as visitors to Easton Ruston Old Vicarage in Norfolk (www.e-ruston-oldvicaragegardens.co.uk) will find. Plant the bulbs in rows, as close as possible without the bulbs touching.
Mixed Rembrandt tulips - so called because they have similar markings to the tulips painted by the Dutch Old Masters - are planted in layers with tulip 'Zurel' and 'Flaming Spring Green' to make a refreshing combination.
There are many options, but grey-coloured containers are a good choice for pale tulip combinations. Generally, the larger the better but if fibreglass faux lead is beyond your budget, consider the less expensive fibreclay instead.
If you want to naturalise your tulip bulbs, you may find inspiration from displays at Sleightholmedale Lodge in the North Yorkshire moors (www.ngs.org.uk), where you can see a mixture of Tulipa sprengeri with bluebells and cow parsley.
Garden owner Rosanna James inherited this tulip.
"My mother planted a few of these tulips in the late 1940s and 50s," says James.
"After some time, she noticed that it'd spread by seed, and what you see is the result 60-70 years later."
T. sprengeri is one of the latest tulips to flower, often in late May. A native of Turkey, it thrives under a well-drained bank of deciduous trees. The bulbs are expensive, but you could try them at the edge of a gravel area or between paving stones.
James advises: "The tulip takes four to seven years to flower from seed. In the meantime, you need to keep the area weed free. We use a weedkiller containing glyphosate once the tulip foliage has gone brown to control docks and cow parsley. We scatter the seed on the ground every year."
The full report on tulips is available in the November issue of Which? Gardening magazine.
Best of the bunch - Berberis (Barberry)
Their spine-tipped leaves make them an ideal deterrent for burglars, especially when grown as a flowering hedge, but there are many other good points for growing berberis too. Their yellow or burnt orange flowers in late spring are followed by red or purple berries in autumn and many of the deciduous types are a sight to behold at this time, when their leaves turn fiery shades.
Berberis, whether deciduous or evergreen, are easy to grow in sun or semi-shade and make good informal hedges or filler plants, while their more compact varieties also do well in pots. Try 'Aurea', which has yellow leaves and grows to around 60cm (2ft) or the more compact and low-growing B. thunbergii atropurpurea 'Bagatelle', which has dark red leaves. Other good choices include the evergreen variety B. darwinii, which bears loose clusters of burnt orange flowers in late spring and purple berries in autumn, and B. verruculosa, which grows to 1.5m (5ft) and bears golden flowers in early summer followed by shiny purple fruits.
Good enough to eat - Planting bare-root fruit trees
It's a great time to start planting bare-root fruit trees and bushes because the soil is still warm, encouraging quick rooting and helping the plants become established.
If plants arrive from the nursery before you are ready for them, heel them in - dig a hole large enough to take the roots, put the plants in, shovel back the soil over the roots and firm it down. They can stay like that for many weeks.
If the ground is too hard to dig, leave the plants wrapped in the material they were packed in and put them in a cool, frost-free outbuilding until conditions improve.
You will need to prepare the planting sites thoroughly beforehand, adding plenty of garden compost and breaking up the subsoil to ease drainage. Avoid replanting fruit where a similar tree or bush stood before, as the new plant will find it difficult to become established.
When the ground is ready, mark where the trees or bushes will go with canes and dig the holes, inserting support stakes before planting. Once the trees are planted to their correct depth and staked, give the ground a light dressing of bonemeal to give them a good start.
Top buy - Super secateurs
They've already, deservedly, won a Red Dot international design award and anyone who wants a comfortable grip when pruning should try the new Fiskars P100 Quantum Bypass Pruner with its unusual cork handles. Perfect for pruning flowers and bushes, this bypass pruner has an aluminium body and blades of precision ground hardened steel and anti-friction coating. It would make an ideal Christmas present for anyone who needs a new, top quality pruner. Recommended retail price £54.99, from garden centres throughout the UK and widely available online. For more information visit www.fiskars.co.uk
What to do this week
Cover vulnerable plants growing outdoors with cloches or horticultural fleece if severe frost is forecast.
Clear out and take under cover decorative containers that are not frost-hardy. Protect pots containing plants of borderline hardiness with insulation and group them together in a sheltered spot.
Plant roses if conditions permit, or heel in if the weather is frosty.
Prune wisteria to ensure and increase flowering next year.
Continue to clear fallen leaves and other debris so slugs, snails and other pests have nowhere to overwinter.
Harvest vegetables including the first Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbages, spinach, turnips, swedes and Jerusalem artichokes.
Check bulbs, corms and tubers in store and remove any showing signs of disease.
Clear away overhanging vegetation from heather beds which need to be sited in sunny, open spots.
Begin pruning greenhouse vines once the leaves have fallen.
Remove dead or decaying branches from trees to stop high winds causing damage and expense.
Continue to cut back any remaining faded marginal plants from your pond.
Store maincrop carrots in wooden boxes of sand, or sifted, dry soil in a cool but frost-free place like a garage or garden shed.
Plant Japanese onion sets if not yet done.