In the Garden: A new lease of life for an old favourite
The brilliant flowers of Senetti cinerarias are very eye-catching in garden centres at this time of year. These are large daisy-type flowers in shades of purple, blue, violet, pink, magenta and indigo. The colours are very intense and some plants have a white band that creates a strong contrast. There is no mistaking this plant, it is very distinctive. Yet it is only a decade or so since it was developed in Japan.
The plant breeders began by selecting outstanding plants from the existing forms of cineraria, which had long been a popular pot plant for home use and for the greenhouse, and can be easily raised from seed. With further selection for intense colour, flower size and vigour as well as a looser head of daisy flowers, the new form, called Senetti, was gradually developed, and was patented.
Senetti is not fully hardy but can withstand considerable cold and lots of plants are used outdoors during these weeks and seem to get by alright, but a severe frost on fresh, unhardened plants can cause damage. This new form lasts for many weeks in flower, especially if the spent flowers are deadheaded.
It is perennial, raised from cuttings, and, in theory, can be overwintered in a frost-protected greenhouse or conservatory, but usually this plant is treated as an annual as it is not easy to overwinter in a cold greenhouse or conservatory.
The older forms of cineraria or pericallis are also still offered for sale for indoor use. These are smaller in size with a tighter rounded head of smaller flowers. Their colour range is greater than Senetti with more pink and red shades as well as the purple and blues. While it is feasible to keep the old-fashioned cineraria going for a second year, it needs a good deal of skill with watering and feeding, and more often than not, it succumbs to greenfly or root-rot.
The plants do not flower as well as the first time because the plant vigour is lost. Both the older cinerarias and the new Senetti are best treated as colourful temporary house plants, or as an outdoor container plant to add colour to a patio.
Before buying, check the lowest leaves to see that the plant does not already have greenfly. Within a week or so, the numbers of insects build up on the leaves and flowers. When that happens, the flowers go over very quickly and the whole plant may collapse. Root rot or stem rot can invade the stem if the compost is too wet. But do not let these minor problems put you off this lovely plant. Even if it doesn't last forever, it is stunningly beautiful.
Q Is it too late to move a rose bush now? The bush has sentimental value but it is growing where paving is going to be laid. It has some new leaves already.
P O'Brien, North Dublin, by email
A Roses are generally good movers, best moved in winter, but if needs must, prune the bush to 20 to 30cm, if not already pruned. Lift it as carefully as possible and re-plant immediately. Water and wait for some new growth and water in dry weather until it is growing actively. Do not feed until there is good new growth.
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