Getting into Bedding Plants

Getting into Bedding Plants

The view across your neighbours' back gardens can be a varied and instructive sight during the month of June for there are those who still regard this valuable space as nothing more than a place to hang the washing and exercise the cat.

Others have a sole interest in, say, roses, and for the better part of every year all one can see from the upstairs windows are gaunt bushes against a cold and forbidding foreground.

There is no excuse, because with a minimum of effort event the novice gardener can add interest and colour to their garden by introducing bedding plants. Bedding plants are a marvellous source of instant colour and should, if watered well and regularly dead-headed, keep blooming throughout the summer right up until September and even later. The majority of bedding should be strategically placed so that it can be enjoyed from the house and can easily be watered every day in hot weather.



Preparation

Prior to planting, the soil requires forking and breaking down to what is known as a fine tilth (crumbly texture). A balanced fertiliser should be incorporated and the ground raked smooth. Additional feeding with liquid preparations can follow once the plants have become somewhat established and made a little growth.

Planting

Spacing should be regular at around 30cm but much will depend on variety chosen. More precise information can be obtained when making your purchases at the garden centre. By all means create patterns of colour when planting large beds and use as many varieties as you wish but don’t randomly mix or jumble them together

Care

Water immediately after planting and give additional water on a twice weekly basis until they’re fully established and growing strongly. You can add a liquid feed at every watering if diluted to half the recommended amount. Finally, deadhead (pinching off the dying blooms) often in order that the varieties chosen continue to produce further flushes of bloom. To do less than this would be a signal to the plants to stop producing follow-on blooms, for stimulation is vital from planting to removal.

Top ten bedding plants.... To help you get some kind of return in terms of colourful blooms in the open ground or in window boxes and containers this summer, choose from my top ten and delight in their performance up to mid-October and later.

1

Top spot goes to Impatiens (Busy Lizzies)

especially the newer hybrids in shades of pink and lilac.

They are ideal for damp, shady places and are a superb

choice for Irish gardens and typical Irish summers!

2

Petunias

Petunias fi ll my second spot, especially the surfi nia

strains. For general bedding choose the multifl ora

strains for while their blooms may be smaller than

those of the Surfi nias, they’re borne in large numbers

and stand up to wet weather much better.

3

Lobelia

Whether you use the trailing or bunching forms,

sheets of colour will be yours, but do remember that

nowadays lobelia comes in many shades and not just

the old and reliable blues. ‘Cambridge Blue rather than

to the darker ‘Crystal Palace’ will provide you with a

wonderful sky-blue effect all summer.

4

Begonia

Begonia semperfl orens come next, for Begonia

these fibrous-rooted reliable perform semperfl orens

excellently in poor summers. There is chocolate

brown varieties such as ‘Cocktail’ with its shiny leaves

and white blooms, as well as the more commonly used

green-leaved, pink or red-flowered forms.

5

Cirrus

Set off any bedding scheme to perfection Senecio

cineraria and provide texture and colour by including

a selection of foliage plants. Senecio cineraria has

masses of silver coated leaves. I prefer to use the form

sold as ‘Cirrus’ for it has broad leaves and a blue/silver

colouring, but any variety of S. cineraria will give a

decent account of itself.

6

French

French marigolds will succeed where most other

summer bedding plants fail, so for a bright splash of

color over a very long period, these are the ones to

choose. There are quite a number of yellow, orange,

and brown coloured forms to choose from. These

plants are very easy to bring to perfection.

7

Nemesia

Nemesia is another favourite with its vast range of

colors on blooms which can be 2cm across. These

plants are more suited to our wet weather and can

suffer in hot, dry conditions. For this reason, keep the

plants well-watered in dry spells and once the main

flush of blooms has finished, give the plants a topping

with the garden shears to induce a further blooming

later on.

8

Bedding

Dahlias

For easy maintenance, a reliable performance and

a dash of the dramatic, bedding dahlias come next,

despite what many say, is their tendency to attract

earwigs! If you like a particular colour, dig up the

underground tuber come the Autumn, clean off any

adhering soil and store in a cool, dry and dark place.

9

Godetia

A much loved and easy-to-grow summer plant is

godetia especially the ‘Dwarf Mixed’ strain which

grows to just under a foot in height. These are superb

for the front of a border giving a riot of colour in

stripes, blends and picotees which continue from July

to the end of September. Try these from seed in April

or as shop-bought plants in late May.

10

Cosmos

Last but not least comes a ‘see-through’ plant called

cosmos. This tall, slender plant produces large blooms

and delicate ferny foliage which you can easily see

through. It thrives on poor, light soils giving colour,

shape and form from the end of June to the first frosts.

They are available as small plants from the end of May.