Bedding plants became incredibly popular in the Victorian era, the traditional landscape which compromised mostly grass and stone were dull and bleak and plant hunters were sent to find varieties of colour to add some interest to gardens. This coincided with the drop of the glass tax which resulted in a surge of glasshouses appearing in private gardens and gardens of the great houses as they frantically started growing bedding plants to ignite colour to their gardens.
Thompson & Morgan Trial Grounds 2010
New bedding plant varieties were discovered and so the craze began, wealthy houses tried to compete with their neighbours to create the most beautiful carpets of colour. Only the most fortunate could afford the material to grow these new varieties and therefore these colourful bedding plant displays became an ornate symbol of the Victorian era. However, due to changes in not only fashion but the lack of labour, bedding plants fell from favour for less formal planting schemes.
To my delight they are on the comeback. There are an incredible amount of bedding plant varieties available today which open the doors to garden creativity. They are no longer restricted to the wealthy and gardeners everywhere are using bedding plants in their gardens. The best part about them is the ability to create a new style every year. You can change or mix up the colour schemes as you please and can use them in beds, borders, hanging baskets, patio containers and to plug gaps in perennial or shrub borders for quick and easy colour. Successional planting requires changing bedding displays twice a year, replanting in late spring (for summer) and early autumn (for winter/spring). For carpet bedding, you need to ensure dense planting. This will not only give you the carpet effect but will also reduce the presence of weeds!
Bedding plants can also be grown from seed although growing bedding plants from plug plants offers a quick and easy solution. Summer bedding plants are sown from February to April; winter and spring bedding plants are sown from May to July for planting out in autumn. Plug plants are dispatched in spring for summer bedding, and late summer for winter bedding. For more information on how to grow bedding plants click here.
TOP TIP: To get the most from your displays you must keep dead-heading as much as you can.
For more information about winter bedding plants click here.
Do you use bedding plants? Where and how do you use them? We would love to hear from you.
The RHS conducted a survey in spring 2013, in which it asked its members for their favourite scented plants.
Traditional flowers such as sweet peas, hyacinths and honeysuckle topped the list, which consisted mainly of spring-flowering plants. We’ve selected one of our own best-selling plants from each of the top 12 scented plants and, for the next two weeks*, we’re giving you 10% off when you order any of these selected scented plants from the Thompson & Morgan website!
No garden should be without sweet peas. Their fragrance fills the air and the more flowers you cut, the more will grow. They’re great for ground cover or grown against walls, fences and trellises. A simple bouquet of sweet pea blooms on a windowsill or table just can’t be beaten. Sweet pea seeds should be sown either indoors in October, which produces much stronger plants, or outdoors in March and April. If you’re buying them as plug plants you’ll need somewhere to grow them on before planting them out. Sweet Pea ‘Scent Infusion’ is a real favourite with our customers.
With their unmistakeable scent and beautiful blooms, hyacinths give a stunning spring display both in the border and in pots on the patio. They make great cut flowers too. Try ‘Breeder’s Selection’ – an exclusive mix that you can’t buy anywhere else, with shorter stems and densely packed with colour-rich flowers.
Honeysuckle comes in many shapes and sizes, from the well-known fragrant varieties to the more unusual ‘trumpet’ honeysuckle. ‘Dropmore Scarlet’ is one such variety and, while it is unscented, the striking fiery-red blooms and blue-green foliage more than make up for it. This vigorous climber flowers from June to September and is perfect for covering walls, fences and unsightly garden features.
The highly sought-after Daphne is a hardy evergreen shrub with deeply fragrant, pale pink flowers that open around Christmas. They’re a real treat at a time when the garden is usually a bit on the dull side! Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ is a slow-growing shrub that’s perfect for growing in large containers in a sunny or semi-shaded spot in the garden. These highly scented plants will grow just as happily in the border too.
Narcissus, or daffodils, are a sure sign that spring is well on its way. There are many varieties available, from the traditional bright yellow daffs t0 pink, cream, bicoloured, double and single varieties – the choice is amazing! But for real impact, narcissus ‘Replete’ takes some beating – the sumptuous double flowers open into peachy-pink ruffles up to 10cm (4in) across. Easy to grow and perfect in borders, rockeries, containers or naturalised in grass.
Most varieties of lilac flower for a few weeks, but by growing ‘Bloomerang’, you’ll have flowers for months! This dwarf lilac fits into most gardens without being overbearing and blooms from spring to summer and again from late summer to the first frosts. Butterflies love it too and it even makes a great cut flower.
Viburnum ‘Dawn’ is a winter-flowering, deciduous shrub that produces masses of dark pink blooms with a rich fragrance. The flowers fade to white before producing berries in the summer. Autumn brings a change in foliage colour to bright orange and yellow, before the flowers appear in winter again. It’s easy to grow and care for and is a perfect plant for a prominent border, where it’ll be a talking point all year round.
With their heady fragrance and impressive blooms, lilies are a great feature in both the border and cut flower arrangements. The Trumpet Tree Lily produces huge white trumpet blooms with lime green throats that have an alluring freesia-like scent.
Jasmine plants are known for their richly perfumed flowers and the variety ‘Revolutum’ is no exception. The bright yellow flowers are on show from May to August and really stand out against the semi-evergreen foliage. Planting it in a sunny spot intensifies the fragrance.
Wallflowers are just about the perfect plant! Versatile and undemanding, they’ll thrive even in the poorest of soils and bloom in the spring. Wallflower ‘Sugar Rush’, winner in the ‘Best New Bedding Plant’ category at the Grower of the Year Awards 2013, flowers twice – in spring and again in autumn, when most of the garden in dormant and giving a welcome display of fragrant blooms.
Roses need very little introduction in terms of scent and ‘Lady Marmelade’ is one of our favourites. Awarded ‘Rose of the Year 2014′, the vintage, cabbage-shaped blooms have a deliciously sweet scent, but that’s where any relation to the past stops – these scented plants have the disease resistance of modern roses.
Lily of the valley
Perfect for springtime posies, lily of the valley fills the air with its sweet fragrance. Plant the ‘pips’ out in spring and, once the plants are established, you’ll be rewarded with a low-maintenance plant that gives wonderful ground cover in woodland gardens and damp, shady areas.
*Please note, this offer only applies to selected plants and ends at midnight, Monday 10th March 2014. Enter order code TWEB44YZ to activate the discount in the ‘use order code’ box in your shopping basket.
Summer bedding plants don’t all have to be petunias and marigolds! As well as the more common bedding plants there are a huge range of annual bedding plants you can grow for height, scent and colour, from cornflowers and sweet peas to rudbeckia and zinnias. Some, such as petunias and geraniums (pelargoniums) are frost-tender perennials, which are treated as annuals and require frost protection; others are hardy annuals which can be sown directly outside. Nearly all summer bedding plants can be raised from seed although there is often a lot of work involved, from germination to pricking out tiny seedlings. If you don’t have the time or space for raising fiddly seedlings why not try our bedding plug plants to quickly get your garden started! It’s easy to order bedding plants online. We’ve listed our 10 best summer bedding plants below.
Learn more about growing bedding plants with our ‘How to grow bedding plants’ guide. For more information about autumn bedding plants for winter and spring flowering, take a look at our ‘Top 10 winter bedding plants’ guide. You can choose from our large range of bedding plants for sale here.
One of the most versatile summer bedding plants, begonias are well loved for their large flamboyant blooms in a wide range of colours, and their ability to thrive in both sun and shade. Flowering continuously throughout summer up to the first frosts, begonia bedding plants can be upright or trailing and are suitable for beds, borders, hanging baskets and window boxes. Some varieties such as begonia ‘Non-stop Mocca’ even have dark leaves to add foliage interest to bedding schemes. Tuberous begonias can be lifted and stored over winter and get bigger and better each year whereas begonia semperflorens cultivars such as begonia ‘Lotto Mixed’ are treated as annual bedding plants.
Sweet peas make fantastic cottage garden bedding plants. Let them scramble up obelisks, wigwams or netting where they will reach heights of 1.8m (6′) or alternatively try dwarf sweet peas for groundcover at the front of beds and borders. With their delightful fragrance and wide range of colours, sweet peas are excellent summer bedding plants and also provide bunches of gorgeous fragrant cut flowers throughout summer!
Incredibly valuable for shadier beds and borders, Impatiens summer bedding plants produce large flowers in a range of fruity colours, from pinks to reds through purples and white. New Guinea Impatiens have replaced the previously popular Impatiens walleriana due to busy Lizzie downy mildew, but share the same desirable characteristics – a long flowering period, bushy mounding habit and a preference for partial shade. Forming big spreading plants, busy Lizzies are superb for ground cover in beds and borders or will quickly fill patio containers with colour up to the first frosts.
A common bedding plant and for good reason! These sturdy, sun-loving plants are well suited to hot, dry conditions and flower all summer through to the first frosts. Pelargoniums, commonly known as geraniums, are versatile bedding plants for summer and include trailing, climbing and upright varieties which are perfect for beds, borders, patio containers, hanging baskets and obelisks. Primarily available in vibrant shades of pink, white and red, geranium bedding plants are also available in subtle shades of lilac, apricot and rich burgundy.
Much loved for their architectural flower spikes and incredibly long flowering period, antirrhinums have fascinating mouth-like flowers which open when squeezed, making them a particular favourite with children. Available in a wide range of strong and vibrant colours, snapdragon bedding plants vary in height, from dwarf plants no taller than 25cm (10″) to large plants such as antirrhinum ‘Royal Bride’ which reach 90cm (35″). Tall snapdragons make superb cut flowers and add height to beds and borders; dwarf snapdragons can be used in beds, borders and patio containers. If you’re looking for bedding plants that attract bees, antirrhinums are a good nectar source, being most popular with bumble bees.
The dainty flowers of lobelia create wonderful dense waterfalls of colour in hanging baskets and containers, or grow the upright varieties for edging beds and borders. Easy to grow and long-flowering, they compliment any summer bedding scheme and look particularly pretty mingling with bedding plants in hanging baskets. Lobelia generally come in shades of cool blue, purple and white and are great if you’re looking for blue annual bedding plants.
Surely the summer bedding plant with the most exciting blooms! Petunias are popular for their large trumpet flowers in a fantastic array of bright colours and patterns, including stripes and picotees. These vigorous half-hardy annuals can be trailing or upright, and look spectacular spilling from hanging baskets, window boxes and containers, or massed in beds and borders. Some such as petunia ‘Purple Tower’ can even be trained to climb a frame! Petunias are particularly useful if you’re looking for purple bedding plants, offering shades of mauve, lilac-blue or rich deep purple.
Annual rudbeckias, also known as coneflowers, make robust and cheerful garden bedding plants. Particularly useful as late summer bedding plants, rudbeckias flower from July through to October and add a fiery element to annual displays with their red, orange and yellow colour palette. Compact varieties such as rudbeckia ‘Toto’ are excellent in beds and patio containers; tall varieties such as rudbeckia ‘Cherry Brandy’ work well planted in sweeping drifts in beds and borders or dotted between perennials and shrubs. Not only do they look fabulous in the garden, rudbeckias also make excellent, long-lasting cut flowers for a vase indoors.
For vibrant colour you can’t beat a Californian Poppy! This hardy annual is sown directly in beds and borders and will happily self-seed, creating effortless drifts of colour year after year. Traditionally orange, recent breeding has brought us a plethora of new colours including yellows, pinks, reds and apricot. The intensely coloured silky blooms are borne above neat clumps of feathery blue-green foliage and are attractive to bees and hoverflies. Thriving in poor, dry soils in full sun, simply scatter the seeds of these lively summer bedding plants where you want them to flower and let them take care of themselves.
If you want bedding plants that attract bees look no further than cosmos! The large saucer-shaped flowers bob prettily on slender, wiry stems and are a great source of late nectar for pollinating insects. The wispy fern-like foliage adds texture to bedding schemes and works well in an informal cottage-style bed or border. These fabulous summer bedding plants are mainly available in shades of pink, red and white, although cosmos sulphureus provides fiery yellows, oranges and reds. Cosmos bedding plants begin blooming in mid-summer and flower prolifically until mid-autumn. They also make fantastic cut flowers for a vase indoors.
Top 10 winter bedding plants
As summer draws to an end it’s an ideal time to be thinking about winter bedding plants for cheerful colour during the coldest months of the year! Winter bedding plants are biennial or perennial plants which are planted in the autumn, some flowering throughout the winter during milder spells, before putting on a burst of vigorous growth in the spring. Try planting winter bedding plants in beds, borders, containers, window boxes and hanging baskets for a welcome splash of colour when few other plants are in flower. Why not try planting spring bulbs underneath your bedding plants for something a bit different! We’ve listed our 10 best winter bedding plants below.
A stalwart of winter bedding displays, Pansy plants are so versatile and will bloom for far longer than any other winter flowering bedding plant. From autumn through to spring, pansies provide a welcome splash of colour in beds, borders, containers, window boxes and hanging baskets! Available in many colours, including white, purple, blue, red, orange and yellow, grow winter-flowering pansies in a sunny or partially shaded position and dead-head regularly for continuous flowering.
Generally slightly smaller than Pansies, Viola plants produce an abundance of dainty flowers on neat compact growth for a more subtle display. As versatile as pansies, you can buy upright varieties such as Viola ‘Sweeties’ or trailing violas such as Viola cornuta ‘Endurio Mixed’ which are ideal for winter hanging baskets. Many violas often have a delightful sweet fragrance too.
A well-loved cottage garden favourite, modern breeding has given us a plethora of new colours, sizes and improved flowering in primrose plants. No longer flowering for a brief period in spring, modern varieties such as Primrose ‘Husky Mixed’ start producing their rosettes of flowers from mid-winter onwards in a whole host of bright colours. A great bedding plant for winter, try primroses in beds, borders, window boxes and containers to add sparkle to your garden on dull winter days.
Compact and bright, polyanthus plants differ slightly to primroses in that the flowers are produced in umbels atop short, sturdy stems. As colourful as their cousins and with long-lasting flowers, Polyanthus are superb winter bedding plants for beds, borders, window boxes and containers. For a fragrant display try Polyanthus ‘Most Scented Mix’.
Renowned for their sweet spring fragrance, wallflowers are a cottage garden favourite with a more relaxed habit than other winter bedding plants. Traditionally planted in the autumn for flowers the following spring, there are now varieties such as Wallflower ‘Sugar Rush’ which flower in the autumn too! Coping with even the poorest of soils, wallflower plants look great in beds, borders, containers and window boxes for a long-lasting, fragrant display.
6. Sweet William
Another cottage-garden favourite, Sweet William flowers are deliciously fragrant and borne on stiff, upright stems making them superb for cutting. Although Sweet William plants are short-lived perennials, they are mostly grown as biennials, planted in the autumn for flowers from May to July. Ideal in beds, borders and containers, varieties such as Dianthus barbatus ‘Messenger’ will add a vibrant mix of red, pink, purple and white to your late spring bedding schemes.
A well known bedding plant for winter, these neat, upright biennials produce large, ruffled, strongly fragrant flower spikes from mid-spring through to mid-summer. Over-wintering as a rosette of leaves, Stock plants burst into life as the weather warms in spring and make a real impact when planted in large drifts through beds and borders, or in containers on the patio. Available in an array of pretty pastel colours, Stock flowers are fantastic for cutting and will fill your house with a delicious sweet fragrance for up to a week.
This pretty winter bedding plant erupts with an abundance of dainty flowers in the spring and is the perfect partner for spring bulbs. Traditionally blue, Forget-me-not plants are also available in pink and white, such as Myosotis ‘Sylva’ Mix. Masses of tiny button flowers create a frothy effect in beds, borders and containers, and plants will happily self-seed for a continuous display in the garden every year.
Neat and compact, these hardy perennial daisies produce masses of round, quilled blooms in pink, red or white. For a really eye-catching variety try Bellis ‘Pomponette’ which has white flowers with pink petal tips. Ideal for massing in beds, borders, containers and window boxes, Bellis plants will keep on flowering right through the spring, representing excellent value for money.
10. Cyclamen coum
A true winter-flowering plant, Cyclamen coum will fill your garden with colour even on the dullest January and February days. A more subtle winter-flowering bedding plant, Cyclamen’s dainty nodding flowers with reflexed petals, and attractive marbled leaves, pair well with snowdrops, evergreen grasses, box and trailing ivy. Grow Cyclamen coum in beds, borders, containers or window boxes for a splash of pink in your winter garden.
Plant daffodils now for the best spring displays
Narcissus ‘Rainbow Butterflies Mixed’
A colleague heard Alan Titchmarsh talking about planting daffodils in August on his radio show at the weekend and was a bit surprised. After all, August is hardly the usual time to be thinking about planting spring bulbs, is it?
Generally speaking, you can plant daffodil bulbs up until the end of November, but in fact the earlier you plant them, the better they’ll flower. According to Alan Titchmarsh, daffodils that are in the ground now will already be putting down roots, ready for the new season’s growth.
Growing daffodils (or narcissus, as they’re also known) is very easy – they really don’t need much attention once you’ve planted them and you’ll get a stunning display for very little work. They’ll grow in most soils, in sun or part shade and are perfect in borders, containers or naturalised in grass. They’re most impressive if you plant them in groups.
Narcissus ‘Replete’ – the pink daffodil
As for colours, there’s such a wide choice – all shades of yellow, white, pink and even rainbow coloured daffs. Some grow to 45cm, while other miniature daffodils barely reach 15cm.
We’ve introduced a number of new daffodils into our range this year, all of which are available to buy online now. These are our top recommendations:
Narcissus ‘Sweet Aroma’
Narcissus ‘Sweet Aroma’
As their name suggests, these daffodils have a delightful fragrance and bloom for up to ten weeks. We thinks it’s one of the best fragrant mixes ever!
Narcissus ‘White Diamonds’ Mix
Narcissus ‘White Diamonds’ Mix
Pure white daffodils in every shape and size. Delicately fragranced, they’ll add a sophisticated touch to your borders and containers.
Narcissus ‘Tête à tête’
Narcissus ‘Tête à tête’
Probably the world’s most popular mini daffodil. Dozens of blooms grow on delicate stems, giving perennial beds and borders a much-needed splash of colour in spring.
Narcissus ‘Jonquilla’ Collection
Narcissus ‘Jonquilla’ Collection
A sweetly scented mix of five different varieties in a lovely mix of colours – ‘Martinette’, ‘Pipit’, ‘Pueblo’, ‘Sundisc’ and ‘Suzy’.
Narcissus ‘Rose of May’
Narcissus ‘Rose of May’
Compact and late-blooming, this daffodil has a truly delicious fragrance and flowers that resemble gardenias.
I love petunias but with last year’s awful weather I was reluctant to grow them this year – I did not want to have another year of soggy flowers.
As usual when the T&M plants catalogue came in spring there were so many new and unusual petunias I just could not resist giving them another chance this year. And with all the sunny weather we have had recently I am so glad I did. They have gone from being bushy green leaved plants to being completely covered in flowers.
My favorites so far are the Crazytunias – ‘Wedgwood’, ‘Strawberry Cheesecake’, ‘Banoffee Pie’ and ‘Sophistica Bicolour’. It’s just amazing how Mother Nature can come up with such amazing colour combinations!
Petunia ‘Banoffee Pie’
Petunia ‘Sophistica Bicolour’
Petunia ‘Black Cherry’ is such an amazing colour, almost black! I am already thinking of plants I can combine with it for next year. And am also hoping it is still around at Halloween this year as it will make a spooky addition to the decorations!
Petunia ‘Black Cherry’
The other reason I love petunias is their scent. They have such an spicy exotic fragrance I don’t know why more fuss isn’t made over them. I wish someone could capture this scent in a candle as I would certainly buy it.
I find the best varieties for scent are Petunia ‘Tidal Wave’ and also the ‘Tumbelina’ range which have lovely double flowers as well as strong perfume. This year I have managed to find 16 different varieties of ‘Tumbelina’ and as a result had to invest in a new hanging basket stand to hang them all from. It’s still early but the stand is already looking good!
Petunia ‘Tidal Wave’
Tumbelina basket stand
Mesembryanthemums love the sun and the flowers are so jewel like. The leaves of these plants are so unusual too. They look like they have ice crystals all over them.
I am a huge fan of exotic plants and this year I have grown schizanthus ‘Dwarf Bouquet Mixed’ from seed. The flowers are really unusual and look like mini orchids.
Also earlier this year I came across some caladium bulbs at a flower show. I have seen these plants in America but never in the UK. They were potted into pots and kept in the conservatory. The leaves are like stained glass windows and are so paper thin you can almost see through them. They are so fast growing which is really surprising, considering how little chlorophyll is actually in the leaf. I am searching everywhere for more varieties. If anyone out there knows where I can get some from please let me know!
Well that’s all for now. Need to get back outside and continue watering!