THINKING OF SPRING FLOWERS
Autumn may have replaced summer but the flower displays for next spring need planning now for tubs, hanging baskets and beds. May can be a glorious month for flowers as all the autumn planted bedding plants and bulbs come into flower.
There are plenty of pansies, primroses, polyanthus, myosotis and wallflower plants available now in nurseries and garden centres. These are all container grown which suits most of them, but for a really large strong plant you are better to grow your own from seed sown in late spring. Most plants have a few flowers on them so you can select a suitable colour of tulip to plant underneath them. Dark blue pansies or myosotis will provide a great bed of solid colour for yellow, pink, white or red dwarf tulips. Yellow pansies can have red or purple tulips. I like to use the large flowering tall Darwin hybrid tulips such as Apeldoorn for my wallflower.
Tubs and hanging baskets
Large tubs usually have good soil to plant into as over time they get planted up twice a year. This breaks down the soil and adds compost. I usually add a dressing of fertiliser to get plants started.
It is sometimes easier to plant the bulbs first, putting them quite deep so they don’t get disturbed when planting the bedding plants. The bulbs come to no harm by deep planting.
If using low growing bedding plants you can get an additional flush of flowers by adding more bulbs such as snowdrops or crocus.
Many people only plant up hanging baskets with summer flowers, but winter flowering pansies are perfect for these and will open up a few flowers all winter if you get a few mild days in a row. Then in spring they really put on a great show. However I don’t put any bulbs into baskets as they are usually too high to see them and the baskets do not have any depth of soil.
It is wise to put fresh compost into baskets every time they get planted. Once finished, either spread the old compost on the compost heap or add to any border soil in need of improvement. Always check out old compost for vine weevil larvae as they are very fond of polyanthus, primroses and pansies.
Hanging baskets need not be hung up immediately after planting as sometimes watering is easier if they are at ground level supported on a large flower pot. Then if the weather turns severe in winter you can move them to a cold greenhouse, frame or sheltered spot for protection. April is a good month to hang them in their permanent spot on a wall.
Keep checking pansies for greenfly and leaf spot and spray if necessary.
Beds and borders
I have always liked to have an impressive flower bed at the front of the house which gives me two main flushes of flowers every year. It must be my past Dundee Parks department training which has never gone away. It is not really surprising as way back in the sixties Dundee was mass planted with spring and summer flowers in the town centres, parks, highways and cemeteries. These were all grown and looked after by trained gardeners dedicated to the job. It was normal to have ten to fifteen new apprentices every year.
If Dundee could return to some of their past flower power glories it could really add a bit of strength to the bid for the City of Culture.
Borders can be built into house frontage or patio areas to create impact. I add some compost when digging the borders in the autumn, as wallflower is my normal choice for spring bedding and they like good fertile soil. Spring bedding plants can also be planted in any other border where space permits and some extra flowers would be welcome.
Primroses and polyanthus are perennials, so after flowering they can be lifted and replanted out somewhere for the summer to build up a strong plant for the following year. All the others only flower once in spring so end up in the compost heap when they finish flowering.
Plant of the week
Potentilla fruticosa is known commonly as the shrubby cinquefoil. It is a deciduous shrub growing about three feet tall and has white, yellow and red flowers from late spring till the end of autumn. It is used very widely as a ground cover plant in urban planting schemes as it is very attractive, though quite tough and is useful on sloping ground liable to soil erosion.
It is easy to propagate with semi ripe cutting in summer.