White schemes can be eye-catching
I read an article last week in which the planting of summer pots was the theme. The resulting pots were ninety percent filled with foliage interest. This, I felt, was trying to be too clever using grasses, perennials and permanent plants in a seasonal context.
Each to their own but I have never in thirty odd years of working in the horticultural industry found a client that wants summer pots full of foliage, winter pots maybe but not summer. It's my experience that with seasonal pots, particularly summer, people are looking for 'flower power' and this is the time of year when it can be achieved with ease thanks to the huge selection of patio and bedding plants available at the moment.
Whether it's pots, hanging baskets, window boxes or bedding, summer planting schemes should be eye catching. This is not to say that you need to use the brightest, brashest colours available. In fact, quite the opposite can be true. Purely white colour schemes can be extremely effective, they can look classy, contemporary and all importantly eye catching.
When using only one colour like this it is essential to vary the flower and foliage size and shape to give some contrast. For example, in a pot a centre piece could be a standard Marguerite daisy or a Fuchsia under planted with New Guinea Impatiens. Add some Bacopa and Petunia surfinia trailing down and you have a classic white pot for the whole summer.
This is not to say that there is anything wrong with the hot bright colours, it is summer after all. Never let anyone tell you your colour schemes are wrong, it's all in the eye of the beholder. I would however always include a little white amongst hot vibrant colours. It is a great way of connecting other colours and creating harmony no matter what shades are thrown together. It's a unifier.
Plant containers come in all shapes and sizes ranging from expensive ceramic and terracotta to cheap plastic, but it can be great fun finding and using unusual items to grow your summer colour.
Old watering cans, sauce pans, tea pots, hollow concrete blocks and even old welly boots. Anything that will hold compost can be utilised as a growing pot as long as it has a bit of drainage. It adds a bit of humour to the garden and they are free.
With hanging baskets I would however buy the best and strongest available. The very nature of where they are located means they can take a bit of a battering even during the summer. I use a coir basket liner, the old days of using moss are gone.
Buy a liner bigger than the basket size and trim down after filling with compost as they can be very tight, even slightly small, if bought to fit. So for a 16 inch basket get a 18 inch liner, it gives you a little wiggle room.
If planting a pot, basket or window box John Innes compost No. 3 is the best choice of compost, it is a blend of loamy soil, peat and sand with a much higher nutrient content than ordinary peat based composts. It is however more expensive than other composts but there are hybrid composts with a mix of some John Innes through them which are the next best choice and are much more economical.
Whatever compost you use be prepared to foliar feed with a liquid fertiliser every two weeks after about three weeks of planting up if you want to get the best results from your flowers. This is done by watering the plants all over with a sprinkler rose attached to your watering can, it is a very fast acting method of feeding plants as they take in the nutrients straight through their leaves.
If you are looking for bedding colour in a shady position Fuchsia are great. There are upright and trailing varieties so they can be very effective in all forms of container. All Impatens [ Bizzie Lizzie] are also excellent in shade and do like to be kept on the moist side. Another plant I use for shade but are not so common is Mimulus. They come in reds, yellows, oranges and whites. In my garden they over winter so I plant them out into the beds for the following year.
Marguerite daisies are a great favourite of mine, these can also over winter for two or three years at a time, so I use them as infill planting within garden borders as well as in pots. They can actually flower year round, even surprisingly in the shade. They come in yellow, pink and white.
Diascias also fall into this category flowering in red, pink and white .But it's the sunny areas in your garden that really come ablaze over the next few months. Whether your preference is for salvias, marigolds, geraniums or the aristocratic Nicotiana, brighten up your day with some 'flower power', there is no better time of year for it.