In this week’s gardening news we bring you an update on sparrows, winter bedding and a recent legionella outbreak…
Sparrow populations helped by untidy gardens
Sparrows helped by wild(er) gardens
Sparrow populations have stabilised after many years of decline, helped in part by less manicured gardens. Gardeners who have been leaving parts of their gardens to grow wild in a bid to help dwindling wildlife populations may have contributed halting the decline of sparrows, according to the results of a British survey.
Legionella cases linked to compost
Legionnaires’ disease outbreak linked to compost
A recent outbreak of Legionella longbeachae in Scotland has been linked to compost, prompting health experts to recommend that warning labels are put on bags of compost. While the risk of contracting the disease remains low, gardeners are advised to wear gloves when handling compost, not to breathe in the dust and to wash their hands immediately after use.
Winter bedding plants give a much-needed splash of colour
Autumn clean-up and winter planting schemes
As summer comes to an end and the autumn clean-up begins in earnest, it’s the perfect time to be thinking about winter planting schemes. Overcome the dull, cold days by adding a welcome splash of colour to your garden with winter bedding plants such as pansies, violas, wallflowers, stocks and forget-me-nots.
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.
Tulip Everlasting Mixture
I think it has happened.
When leaving the house today; the feeling of autumn seemed to have descended. Although bright and sunny, the temperature was cooler and there were misty windows. Darn, I’ll have to start wearing socks again!
So what do we do now summer’s ‘over’?
In terms of summer bedding, there’s no need to hurry, just enjoy it while it lasts, trimming and dead-heading here and there. You might want to clear some areas to make way for bulb plantings though…
Now’s the ideal time to plant a tapestry that will burst into life next spring- just at the point where you’ve forgotten you planted it! Think colour, think fragrance and think non-stop interest. Plant up a lasagne of bulbs such as tall tulips (‘Everlasting’ Mixture is great as it comes back year after year, each time as good as the last), sprinkled with the newest and best rainbow daffs (‘Rainbow Butterflies Mixed’, and in the foreground some of our newest and rare crocus cancellatus.
Primrose Primlet Berryblossom Mixed
And, bedding isn’t just for summer – there are some fab winter and spring varieties you can try too! Save £££s by planning and buying now; the world really is your oyster. There’s as much to choose from as there is for summer! Pansies, primroses, polyanthus, wallflowers, double daisies, violas… the list goes on! A couple of my favourites are pansy ‘Frizzle Sizzle Yellow Blue Swirl’ and the lovely primrose ‘Berryblossom Mixed’.
And if you’ve wanted to try fruit for a bit, now’s the ideal time to give it a go! Strawberries planted in the autumn will actually give 50% more fruit than those planted in the same year. And <a href=”/fruit/fruit-trees”>fruit trees</a> are best planted as bareroot right now – so get out with your spade!
Follow me on twitter @gardening_greek keep up to date with all the latest plant developments!
See you for now,