In the garden a few species of this small group of plants are grown for their ability to provide dense ground cover and for their delicate flowers. The ones cultivated are evergreen, invasive and hardy.
Suitable site and soil. Any ordinary well-drained soil in a partially shaded spot will do.
Cultivation and care. Plant out between early autumn and early spring. Generally easy to grow.
Propagation. Can be divided from autumn to early spring and will also increase themselves by layering.
Recommended varieties. V. major (great periwinkle) is a robust, spreading, evergreen hardy sub-shrub with glossy oval dark-green leaves; it grows up to 45cm – 18in with a spread of about 1.2m – 4ft or more. It produces blue or blue-purple flowers about 2.5cm – 1 inch across from mid spring to early summer. The variety V. major ‘Variegata’ has cream-edged leaves. Hardy V. minor (lesser periwinkle) is smaller at about 10cm – 4in but with a similar spread to V. major. It too has glossy dark-green leaves, with its blue flowers appearing from early spring to mid summer. Good varieties are V. minor ‘Aureovar-iegata’ with yellow in the leaves and V.m. ‘Burgundy’ with wine-red flowers. V. difformis, another spreading sub-shrub, usually dies back in winter, but grows to 30cm – 12in high by 90cm – 3ft or more across.
Pests and diseases. Usually pest free but V. major may suffer fungal attack.
PERIWINKLE ON THE LOOSE
V. major will grow almost anywhere, even in shade, and it is especially useful in a wild garden. To use as ground cover, space plants about 60cm – 2ft apart for a really colourful spread.
What would the garden be like without tulips? These familiar, mostly hardy, spring-flowering bulbs come in a wide range of colours and, as well as being popular in the bed or border, make excellent cut flowers.
Suitable site and soil. They do best in well-drained and fertile soil – preferably alkaline – in a sunny site.
Cultivation and care. Plant out bulbs about 15cm – 6in deep and 15cm – 6in apart in mid to late autumn. Deadhead bulbs and remove petals from around the plant. Bulbs can be left in situ but it is best to lift them after the foliage dies back and store them in a cool dry place until replanting time.
Propagation. Increase from offsets obtained when bulbs are lifted. Species of tulip can be grown from seed. ‘ Recommended varieties. The range to choose from is huge. Tulips from the Darwin hybrid division give a good splash of colour in spring bedding. These grow about 60cm – 2ft high and spread about 20cm – 8in; of these T. ‘Gudoshnik’ is yellow and pink with red spots and T. ‘Apeldoorn’ is deep red. Of the lily-flowered types, T. ‘Captain Fryatt’ is the colour of red wine and grows to 45cm – 18in. The Parrot types have unusual fringed flowers and T. ‘Fantasy’ is rose-pink with a green stripe. T. tarda is a good and attractive species that grows to only 15cm – 6in high and has white flowers with a yellow centre; it looks good in a rock garden.
Pests and diseases. Prone to attack by aphids and eelworms and a number of viral and fungal diseases.
There are 14 or 15 divisions of tulip, of which three are distinct from the broad mass of tulips: parrot tulips, with fringed flowers; lily-flowered tulips with pointed petals; and double tulips.
Most of the plants from this group are hardy climbers – some annual and some perennial – although in the garden many of the forms grown are dwarf or prostrate. They have attractive, brightly coloured flowers.
Suitable site and soil. Most annual species prefer a well-drained, fairly poor soil in a sunny position. Of the perennials, T. speciosum prefers a slightly acid soil while most others are happy in any well-drained, rich soil in either full sun or partial shade.
Cultivation and care. Plant out perennials in early spring. In cold areas, lift the tubers of tuberous species in autumn.
Propagation. Sow seeds of annuals in the growing site in early spring. Divide perennials in late winter or, if tuberous species, lift and separate for the winter or when replanting tubers in early spring.
Recommended varieties. T. speciosum (flame creeper, flame nasturtium, flame flower) is a really superb, fully hardy herbaceous perennial climber that does especially well in cool, moist climates. It has light green, six-lobed leaves and stunning flame-red flowers all summer long. It climbs to about 3m – 10ft and spreads 60cm – 2ft; its roots should be kept in shade. Good dwarf varieties off. Majus (nasturtium) include those of the ‘Whirlybird’ type in a range of colours. T. tuberosum ‘Ken Aslet’ is a perennial tuberous climber growing to 2.4m – 8ft with red-orange flowers.
Pests and diseases. Watch out for aphids and viruses.
THE HOLLY AND THE CLIMBER
Plant 7. speciosum’s straggly roots in rich, leafy soil at the foot of an evergreen shrub such as holly; it can then climb up the holly, with a dramatic colour contrast at flowering time.
This group of showy, half-hardy annuals includes some of the commonest and most popular border and bedding annuals. The flowers are produced from summer until autumn and also last well as cut flowers.
Suitable site and soil. A rich, well-drained soil in a sunny position is best. Border edges are a good site for a row of marigolds.
Cultivation and care. Plant out in late spring. Remove old flower heads to promote a longer flowering season.
Propagation. Grow from seed sown in early or mid spring.
Recommended varieties. Varieties of T. erecta, or the African marigold, are available in varying heights from 75cm – 21 – 2ft down to about Socra – lV&ft. Good varieties are the tall T. e. ‘Climax’, growing to 9.0cm – 3ft and spreading 46cm – lV&ft with large double yellow and orange flowers; and small African marigolds from the ‘Inca’ series which grow to 30cm – 12in with gold, orange and yellow flowers. Varieties of T. patula, or the French marigold, are smaller and more compact. A good one is T.p. ‘Disco Orange’, with single flowers in a pretty, cheerful orange. It grows to 15cm – 6in high and wide. Varieties of T. tenuifolia pumila (formerly T. signata pumila) make excellent edging plants growing to about 23cm – 9in high and forming low mounds. They are available with lemon, yellow and orange-red flowers.
Pests and diseases. Watch out for attack by slugs and snails; they may also suffer from fungal grey mould and root rot.
Varieties of T. patula (French marigold) attract butterflies. Plant them at the base of Buddleia davidii (butterfly bush) for a lovely swarm of butterflies and for a purple and orange flower contrast.
These hardy deciduous shrubs and small trees are grown mainly for their flowers which appear in late spring; many varieties are fragrant. They make good specimen shrubs, hedges and look well in borders.
Suitable site and soil. Sun or partial shade in a soil that is deep and fertile, preferably slightly alkaline, is best for members of this group.
Cultivation and care. Plant out in autumn. Remove flowers as they fade and also get rid of untidy growth in autumn. In summer remove suckers, especially from grafted plants. Occasional removal of the old wood stimulates vigour.
Propagation. Increase by heel cuttings in summer.
Recommended varieties. There are many varieties of S. vulgaris (common lilac), a large shrub that grows to 3.6m – 12ft high and spreads about 3m – 10ft and produces fragrant, lilac-coloured flowers in clusters in late spring. Good varieties include S.v. ‘Charles Joly’ with single mauve flowers; S.v. ‘Primrose’ with creamy-coloured flowers; and S.v. ‘Mrs Edward Harding’ with red semi-double flowers. Bushy and dense, S. meyeri ‘Palibin’ grows to 1.5m – 5ft high and wide with fragrant lilac flowers in late spring. S. x josijlexa ‘Bellicent’ is a disease-free variety that grows up to 4.5m – 15ft high and spreads 3.6m – 12ft. Its fragrant pink flowers in slim clusters are produced in late spring.
Pests and diseases. Pests include caterpillars and lilac leaf miner. Diseases include lilac blight and silver leaf.
S. x. chinensis (Rouen lilac) makes an excellent screen. Plant about 1.8m – 6ft apart and leave to get I established. It grows to 3m – 10fl, with attractive purplish flowers borne in late spring.
This group of plants include annuals, greenhouse succulents, hardy perennials and shrubs, which are grown for their flowers and for their foliage. Many plants long known as senecio now belong to other groups.
Suitable site and soil. Annuals like sun and normal garden soil. Perennials like moist or boggy soil in partial shade. Succulents must be grown indoors. Shrubby types prefer well-drained soil and full sun.
Cultivation and care. Plant perennials and shrubs in autumn or spring. Cut herbaceous types to ground level in late autumn.
Propagation. Annuals are grown from seed sown in late winter. Perennials are increased by division in spring, shrubs from cuttings and succulents by cuttings taken in summer.
Recommended varieties. Senecio bicolor (usually sold as Cineraria maritima) is a grey-leaved, half-hardy evergreen much used for bedding. It grows to about 30cm – 12in with a similar width. Two popular hardy grey-leaved shrubs are Senecio ‘Sunshine’ and S. greyi (both now technically species of Brachyglottis). These grow to about 1.2m – 4ft and have yellow daisy flowers in summer. Among the herbaceous types, S. smithii is worth growing, producing clusters of daisy-like flowers with yellow centres on 1.2m – 4ft stems in summer. S. rowleyanus (string of beads) is a greenhouse succulent trailer with bead-like leaves.
Pests and diseases. Watch out for aphids on all plants.
S.smithii is an excellent plant for moist, boggy conditions. Its striking leaves and clusters of yellow-centred, white flowers in early summer provide interest in an area where many plants do not do well.
Plants from this huge group of succulent annuals and mostly evergreen perennials are grown for their flowers and their interesting leaf shapes. Many are suitable for rock gardens.
Suitable site and soil. Plant in sun in well-drained soil.
Cultivation and care. Plant out in autumn or winter. Most species are drought resistant.
Propagation. Increase perennials by division in autumn or winter or by cuttings in spring. Annuals can be grown from seeds sown in early spring.
Recommended varieties. S. ‘Herbstfreude’ (also known as ‘Autumn Joy’), a hybrid of S.spectabile (ice plant) and S. telephium, is an herbaceous border perennial with fleshy leaves. It grows to 60cm – 2ft high by 45cm – 18in across and produces dense heads of deep pink flowers from late summer to late autumn. S. spathulifolium is a superb rock garden plant grown for its low (10cm – 4in) spreading foliage of fleshy leaves. It produces yellow flower-heads in late spring; S.s.’Cape Blanco’ has grey-white leaves. The fast-growing annual S. caeruleum produces star-shaped blue flowers in summer and grows to 15cm – 6in. Its foliage turns red at the same time as flowering. S. telephium maximum ‘Atropurpur-eum’ has purple leaves which look dramatic in the border. It grows to 60cm – 2ft and has large pink flower-heads in autumn.
Pests and diseases. Watch out for attack by aphids, slugs and mealy bugs. Rot may occur where soil is too moist.
Purple foliage can provide contrasting and complementary colour. 5. telephium maximum ‘Atropurpureum’ looks especially good alongside the silvery-grey Stachys byzantina (Stachys olympica).
The plants of this group of hardy and half-hardy flowering bulbs are grown for their pretty blooms and glossy leaves. Some flower in spring and others in summer and autumn. They do well in grass and in rock gardens.
Suitable site and soil. Plant 5cm – 2in to 8cm – 3in deep in any soil that is well-drained yet moist. The planting distance for the smaller plants such as S. bifolia and S. siberica is about Ocm – SVkin and about 18cm – 7in for larger plants, including S. peruviana. They thrive in sun or partial shade.
Cultivation and care. After the bulbs have been planted in autumn they need very little care.
Propagation. Can be grown from seed but more easily from offsets lifted in late summer and quickly replanted.
Recommended varieties. S. sibcrica ‘Spring Beauty’ grows up to 15cm – 6in and spreads 5cm – 2in. It has striking, intense blue, bell-shaped flowers produced on stems in spring after the glossy leaves. S. peruviana grows to 30cm – 12in and spreads to 20cm – 8in; it produces dense heads of attractive, flattish, small blue flowers in early summer. S. bifolia flowers in early spring when each bulb puts forth a single stem with a number of star-shaped flowers which are usually blue but can be pink and white; it grows to 20cm – 8in and spreads 5cm – 2in. S. scilloides bulbs produce a spike of attractive small pink flowers in late summer and autumn; it grows to 30cm – 12in and spreads 5cm – 2in.
Pests and diseases. Prone to fungal diseases, smut and rust.
BLUEBELL OR SCILLA?
The English bluebell was once named Scilla nonscripta. But it is now properly classified as Hyacinthoides nonscripta. It does, in fact, bear a great similarity to Scilla siberica.
This group of hardy or half hardy plants contains annuals and mostly evergreen perennials. They are grown for their foliage and attractive flowers, and do well in rock gardens, raised beds, pots and troughs.
Suitable site and soil. Generally, plants from the group should be grown in a sheltered site in semi-shade in soil containing grit; many prefer some lime in the soil. 5. stoloni-fera as a houseplant or in a basket should preferably be potted in John Innes No. 1 or 2 potting compost.
Cultivation and care. Most should be planted out in early autumn or late winter.
Propagation. Can be increased by growing free from seed in autumn or by offsets in winter or by division after flowering.
Recommended varieties. The spreading S. x urbium (London pride) is a fully hardy perennial that grows to 30cm – 12in. It flowers in early summer with masses of small pinky-white blooms on spindly stems; it is evergreen and its rosettes of toothed, oval-shaped leaves make good ground cover, especially in shady areas. Evergreen S. burseriana, one of the cushion saxifrages, grows slowly to 5cm – 2in high by 10cm – 4in across, with white flowers in early spring. It looks good in a trough garden. Evergreen S. stolonifera (mother of thousands) is used in sheltered rock gardens, in baskets and as a house-plant. It sends off runners bearing little plantlets which are easily used for propagation.
Pests and diseases. Usually no problems.
THOUSANDS IN A BASKET
S. stolonifera looks superb in a hanging basket where its offshoots, called stolons, can trail down. Its leaves are an attractive deep: green above and deep: red or purple: underneath.: ,
This group of hardy annuals, biennials and herbaceous perennials are grown in the border for their vivid flowers with prominent central cones. They are also excellent for cutting and comparatively easy to grow.
Suitable site and soil. A sunny, open site and most types of well-drained soil suit these plants. Put smaller ones in the front of the border and taller ones towards the back.
Cultivation and care. Perennials should be planted in autumn or early spring. Dead head frequently to encourage flowering. In windy positions, the taller plants will need support. Perennials should be cut down in late autumn.
Propagation. Grow annuals and perennials from seed and also divide perennials in spring or autumn.
Recommended varieties. R. hirta ‘Goldilocks’, a perennial usually grown as an annual, is one of the best coneflowers, with its stunning double, golden-yellow flowers 8cm – 3in across from midsummer to early autumn. The plant grows to 60cm – 2ft and spreads 30cm – lft. Another popular variety is R. h. ‘Rustic Dwarfs’ with flowers up to 15cm – 6in across. R.fulgida ‘Gold-strum’ grows to 75cm – 21 – 2ft and its striking, yellow-gold flowers, produced in late summer, are up to 13cm – 5in across with contrasting black cones. Taller is R. laciniata ‘Golden Glow’ which grows to 2.1m – 7ft high and spreads 90cm – 3ft, with double yellow ilowers and greenish cones.
Pests and diseases. Watch for signs of attack by slugs and snails; otherwise usually no problems.
Most types of rudbeckia make superb, long-lasting cut flowers. The long, strong stalks, bold, golden-yellow, large flowers and contrasting cones of R. fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ make it an outstanding cut flower.