I think Polyanthus Firecracker is well-named–its’ flowers really create a crackling, fiery red and yellow contrast. Each plant has flowers with slightly different markings and petal ‘frilliness’. Firecrackers hail from China and were used to frighten away evil spirits. Well this exciting and attractive plant must be effective as it has only encouraged positive comments from passers-by.
Having a south-facing ‘hot’ border, these sounded like a brilliant plant for the front edge, so in 2014 I dutifully nurtured small plugs of this gem in 7cm pots until they were large enough to inter-plant amongst my Valeriana phu Aurea–in theory to give some colour after the leaves have reverted from bright yellow to green. However, I didn’t count on the chickens! Yes, they do tend to cause havoc in the borders, but the golden-leaved valerian has stood the test of time – but not this last year. To cut a long story short, half of, if not more, the Polyanthus Firecracker never made it to flower, as the chickens scratched them to death whilst shredding the valerian.
So it was a bit of a surprise to see some of them coming back up for air this spring 2015, first flowering in February despite Jack Frost … and going all-out head-to-head with the March-flowering Narcissus Tête-a-tête. Had the Firecracker retreated … or perhaps they were relocated by you know who! The chickens, well this year they just weeded in between the plants, the novelty clearly having worn off! The vagaries of our weather patterns are always a wild card, but in my garden … what a beautiful survivor! Polyanthus Firecracker is certainly an explosive harbinger of spring!
By Purple Leaf Blackthorn
Don’t get caught out with empty pots and desolate borders this winter. Just a few minutes ordering some winter plants now will ensure your garden is a riot of colour this winter, just as it has been all summer!
Pansies are a staple of the winter garden. They thrive in cold, icy weather, and if you choose Pansy ‘Matrix’, you’ll get even stronger plants than those in the shops. Better branching means more flowers, and even then the flowers are super sized! They’re great value when you buy them as a plug, and all they need is a little potting on, no greenhouse required!
Primroses are another ‘toughie’ for winter and spring colour, and will even push their rainbow coloured flowers through coverings of snow. Look out for the crazy looking ‘Firecracker’, which is about as far from a traditional primrose as you can get! If this isn’t quite your thing, then give ”Arctic mixed’ a go, with almost every colour combo you can think of. The difference between primroses and polyanthus is that primroses have stems each with a single bloom, whilst polyanthus cluster 15 or more at the tip of a stem. ‘Crescendo’ is undoubtedly the best of the polyanthus!
Set up some shrubs to give your borders some ‘padding’- Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire‘ is named appropriately, as the bare stems shine orange-red through the winter. Other great filler shrubs with winter colour and fragrance are tongue-twisting sarcococca with powerfully fragrant blooms, and a low habit, great for hedging. I’d also recommend filling your borders with hellebores too, we have world class breeding, which offers you strong plants, delicate blooms, and most importantly, they’re out when nothing else is!
Primrose ‘Husky’ Mixed
Just a few minutes planning now can make your outdoor space the envy of all once spring arrives! And this is all thanks to the queen of spring, the primrose!
When you think the garden has given up the ghost and you’re cranking up the central heating indoors, primroses are outside flourishing! ‘Husky’ is an especially hardy variety, which shrugs off cold and snow. Great colour mix, as with our new ‘Improved Mix of Alaska’, 20 different colours – wowsers!
Last season we also had some fun putting together the best fragrant types too, ‘World’s Most Scented Mix’ is a hand-selected blend… or rather nose-selected!
Primula Double ‘Lipstick’
Or you can go big and blousy with ‘Berryblossom Mixed’, tightly packed rosebud blooms in a Valentine’s style colour mix – grow a pot for your beloved this February maybe!
How’s about a designer blend too? ‘Woodland Dell’ is a true connoisseur’s variety, with blushed pink blooms on dark, nearly black foliage! Or try ‘Double Lipstick’- it’s a bit more pricey but well worth the investment for the fancy buds and blooms!
But when’s a primrose not a primrose? Well, when it’s a polyanthus. Primroses have 1 bloom per stem, but many stems. Polyanthus have just 1 stem with a cluster of blooms piled on top! ‘Crescendo’ is the oldest and still the best, colourful but very hardy too.
Polyanthus ‘Crescendo®’ Mixed
So, to get started, order young plants now, pot them on and you’ll have some nicely established plants by late autumn, when you can plant out into borders or patio pots!
PS Don’t forget you can follow all the new product developments at T&M by following me on twitter @gardening_greek