The spring bedding plants have given a great show, especially tulips and the cool weather meant we enjoyed a long flowering season, but now it is time to start replacing them with summer flowering plants. Winter flowering pansies can continue to flower for a few more weeks, but they have been disappointing this year as the cold weather stopped them bulking up into strong plants, so they are destined for the compost heap.
When removing old bedding plants from tubs and borders, keep bulbs and corms from tulips, narcissus, crocus and hyacinths as they will flower again the following year. However if they are still growing lift them carefully and replant them in good soil to keep them growing for a few more weeks to build up a strong healthy bulb. Once the foliage dies down lift them, dry them off and remove old soil, leaves, and roots then store them in a dry place till autumn.
Summer flowers can be grown from seed as annuals or half hardy annuals, or from corms, tubers, bulbs or half hardy perennials like geraniums, which can be grown from cuttings taken from the previous years bedding display. Impatiens, (Bizzie Lizzies) can also be grown all year round as they root very easily from cuttings and make nice house plants but they do suffer from red spider that is very hard to eradicate with available chemicals.
Garden Centres have a wide range of suitable plants for bedding to be purchased as seed, small plugs or larger mature plants ready for immediate planting. Where larger tubs or beds are to be mass planted it is a good idea to create a bit of height with a few dot plants. Choose those with exotic foliage such as Canna, Sweet Corn, Castor Oil plant, Eucalyptus, Brugmansias, Date Palm or Cordylines. Some of these perennials which are not really hardy can be retained for another year by lifting up at the end of the growing season and keeping them in a warm place, or drying off for Cannas and Brugmansias.
Tubs and hanging baskets
Geraniums and tuberous begonias are my favourites for tubs and large pots as I have big plants that give a dazzling show. My geraniums have slowly been growing larger from last autumn when I started them off as cuttings, and my begonias from tubers were purchased about twenty years ago and although they have been split up several times they are still quite large. These are supplemented with African marigolds, Petunias, Impatiens and trailing Lobelia. The latter range is also used for hanging baskets plus a central bright red or white geranium. Use small plug plants for inserting through the sides of the basket as these are less likely to get damaged.
Fuchsias are perfect for hanging baskets as you can look up into the flowers which always hang down. They can grow quite large so you only need one plant per basket. Keep baskets and tubs watered and fed as they can be quite demanding and respond to good treatment.
I have one large tub that always gets a central dot plant to give it height. Brugmansia is a favourite as its huge trumpet flowers are very bold and the evening exotic scent is powerful.
Beds and borders
I use the same range of bedding plants for my formal flower beds, but extend this range with annuals sown from seed for bare patches of garden where I have been renovating plants. We always seem to be buying a new special plant, so something has to go to make room for it, and in its early years I like to add a few bedding plants to brighten up the area. The cultivations and compost add fertility to the soil at the same time. This year I had gaps after losing a broom, Cytisus praecox and a Cistus Silver Pink.
Some raised borders are a bit stony and dry so I grow some Livingston Daisies from seed in cellular trays then plant direct when the plants are big enough. Keep them watered to get them established.
I also grow Cosmos in cellular trays for planting out when bigger.
Other bare patches of soil get cultivated and sown with Shirley Poppies, Poppy Ladybird and the fluffy pink Opium Poppy which makes a very bright splash of colour.
Plant of the week
Euphorbia griffithii Fireglow is very useful for brightening up the garden in late spring to summer when it produces its bright crimson flowers. It is an herbaceous perennial that spreads by rhizomes just below the soil surface. It is easy to grow as it likes most soils, partial shade, can tolerate dry conditions, though it prefers a moist rich soil and grows about two feet tall. Sometimes when given ideal conditions it can be quite invasive.
Take care when handling the plant as it easily produces a milky sap when bruised which is poisonous and can be very irritant in contact with skin.