After a busy week with barely a peep outside, I went into the garden this morning and felt a none-too-subtle shift from high summer towards early autumn. There I was last Sunday extolling the virtues of planting for late summer colour, marvelling at the fact that my plot had yet to reach its peak. And this morning, well, I realised it had gone ahead without me!
Experience tells me that we should be able to enjoy the garden until well into October, and to a lesser extent into November too. But it’s a bittersweet knowledge. And it doesn’t help that it’s just started pouring down outside when, in 15 minutes, a party of nonagenarians is due for a spot of horticultural therapy a la NGS Garden and Health Week! OMG it’s pelting down.
Anyway, with the turn of the season comes reflection. So I thought it would be a good time to review some of this summer’s bedding plant schemes (whilst I can still see them, that is!)
Best new summer bedding plants
- First prize goes to: Begonia x tuberhybrida ‘Non-stop Mocca’ for its stunning bright red double flowers above deep dark foliage. Many more next year. Plant with everything!
- Durability prize: Petunia ‘Mini Rosebud Romantic Peachy’. Although not much of a spreader, its dense mats of flowers need no deadheading and sparse watering. (Good job too, seeing as their hanging baskets just fall short of hose distance, and are just above comfortable watering can height.)
- Greatest Endeavour: Begonia ‘Glowing Embers’. Poor things; when I planted them out with coleus ‘Redhead’, amongst some canna ‘Tropicanna Black’ divisions, who knew that they would be completely dwarfed by the canna’s 6ft tall paddle leaves. Still, their delicate little orange gems managed to poke out of the darkness. Talk about hiding your light under a bushel.
- Forgot I Had Them Prize: Bidens Collection. Having trialled these bidens last summer I was more than happy to plug another lot into the shady hosta and heuchera baskets in the fernery (posh name for shady bit at the back where nothing else grows) this year. Once planted I promptly forgot about them until towards the end of July, when their starry little daisy-like flowers started popping up, clearly no offence taken.
- Didn’t Think I Could Grow Them Prize: Trial Dahlia Plug Plants. Having never grown dahlias from anything other than dahlia tubers, I was hesitant to take on this trial. That said, wasn’t I likely to be the ideal candidate as, if they proved successful, then surely they could be catalogued as Idiot Proof! Three plugs each of four experimental varieties. Due to lack of space I planted each group of three into a 12” pot to start them off and eventually transplanted them onto the allotment. Well, within a fortnight two out of the four came into bloom, with more robust buds coming on. One group seemed particularly prone to slugs so I collared them with plastic tomato auto watering rings, which put a stop to that problem. I swear by those rings! Never have used them on tomatoes though.
Best of the rest
And now it’s time to review the other established plants in the garden, bearing in mind one always loves the plants that are Flowering Right Now the best:
- Variegated phlox ‘Olympus’ with pinky white flowers, mixed with deep blue and white varieties, breathe new life into the mid-summer borders.
- Pastel carpet roses from Flower Carpet Range and County Series, Chelsea Rose of Year 2015 ‘For Your Eyes Only’, just keep flowering away all summer long.
- Shrubby salvias, salvia Uliginosa and huge tender Salvia confertifolia and Salvia involucrata. In fact all salvias. Except sage, I can’t grow sage. I have even broken my cardinal rule of not having any tender perennials in the borders, by lifting the most vulnerable ones for overwintering under cover.
- Anything tall. Miscanthus, calamagrostis, eupatorium, thalictrum, Veronicastrum virginucum ‘Fascination’. With exceptions: tansy has to go; sick of it, better things in the offing at Plant Heritage Plant Sale in September, oh, and rampant filipendula should carry a government health warning.
Make the most of the next few weeks, and remember it’s never too late to do a bit of plant buying. Love, Caroline.
Visit our begonias hub page for links to a wealth of helpful begonia growing and care information.
Caroline Broome has been gardening for more than 20 years. Having passed the RHS General Certificate, she has since developed her East Finchley garden into a “personal paradise” that she and her husband invite the public to visit each year via the National Garden Scheme. Learn more about our contributor using T&M’s ‘Meet the experts’ page.