Thursday 22 February 2018

Spring bedding plants jazz up a drab season

The garden centres have, in recent years, begun to offer a much greater range of winter and spring bedding plants. Along with the traditional wallflowers and double daisies, there are excellent forms of small-flowered cyclamen for use outdoors and the more free-flowering modern winter pansy varieties.

The winter pansies flower intermittently all through winter in mild weather and even manage to hold some colour in harsh conditions. Polyanthus and primroses are usually sold with some flower in autumn and these have been developed with good resistance to cold weather. The main display comes in spring.

Autumn and winter cyclamen is a relative newcomer but has proven very popular, creating a great show of colour at a key time. Ornamental cabbage in purple or white is also relatively new and has become very popular for its colourful leaves that last very well. Ornamental cabbage is often teamed with winter heathers in purple and white shades, and these are followed by double daisies and spring bulbs to extend the colour.

Wallflowers and forget-me-nots are usually teamed with tulips in spring bedding displays but there are other ways to use these excellent bedding plants. They do not flower until spring, except perhaps for a stray flower that jumps the gun, but they are planted in autumn after summer bedding has been removed.

There are three ways to use winter and spring bedding plants. The traditional approach is to replace formal summer bedding with formal spring bedding, the whole bed being replanted. But few home gardeners do this any more. Winter and spring bedding can be very effectively used in groups at the front of beds and borders to cheer these up in winter, and in pots that can be placed by doorways.

Small-sized specimens of shrubs, such as hebe, cordyline, skimmia and euonymus, can be used in pots to give bulk, colour and greenery. These can be taken out and planted in the open ground afterwards. Ivy is good too to trail down. These woody plants can be left in position for summer, with summer plants inserted, and taken out, or pruned, when they get too big. Use half garden soil and half compost mixed.

Evergreen perennial flowers can be used too, such as bergenia, heuchera and ajuga, planted into pots for their foliage effect in winter, taking them out in May when the summer flowers are potted up, and planting the perennials in a border to grow on. Or they could be left with summer bedding. Winter and spring bedding plants are available now and can be planted right away.

Sunday Independent

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