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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.