It is impracticable, other than in a very rough manner, to allocate plants to particular seasons. One of the reasons for this is that a late spring flower in a favoured southern region may not bloom until early summer in a northern, less clement district. Another is that manycan be had in flower in different seasons (the flowering period being dependent upon when the was sown). A third is that some plants have a long flowering season and if placed in one group could just as appropriately be placed in another. However, an attempt at allocation to seasons has been made.
The plants for each sub-section have been chosen either because of their long flowering period or on account of the long-term effect of their foliage, petunias and pelargoniums being examples of the former and hostas of the latter. Some, like nemesia, have been included because they provide a brief but dazzling burst of colour and others because they offerat a difficult season. An indication of the life span of has been included, showing it to be , or perennial; a temperature tolerance is suggested by the words ‘hardy’ or ‘half-hardy’. Plants which are hardy will tolerate cold, but half-hardy plants will not survive frost and must not be planted out until all danger of it is past. They must also be hardened off, e.g. gradually acclimatized to outdoor conditions before planting out.
Tender plants, with the exception of a few, have not been included.
Alyssum saxatile [Gold Dust; Southern Europe]
This, up to 30cm/1 ft tall, from April onwards when its tiny yellow flowers, which are produced in great frothing clusters, practically obscure the greyish foliage. It fits in well with other plants providing a foil for green-leaved plants when not in flower and is useful in containers because of the brilliance of its flowers in early summer. It is inclined to sprawl but can be tidied up by clipping it back immediately after flowering. A. s. ‘Compac-tum’ is about half the size, reaching about 15cm/6in. Any soil and full sun suit the plant. Propagation is by or sown in mid-summer.
Arabis Snow-in-Summer; Southern Europe/Asia Minor]
The perennial species, A. alhida (syn. A. caucasica) is very invasive but is valued for its grey-greenand small white flowers in great masses throughout the spring months. The varieties ‘Flore Pleno’ and ‘ ’ have large white blooms and are less apt to spread. Grow in ordinary soil and light shade; is by division.
Armeria [Thrift; Europe]
These are small neat perennials, good for edging and in paving cracks and raised beds. The grey-greenare grassy, and small round flower heads show in May above the evergreen hummocks. A. caespitosa (5cm/2in high) has pink flowers, and so has A. maritima (height 15cm/6in); there is a white variety ‘Alba’, and ‘Vindictive’ is deep red. Any soil and full sun will suit armerias, and they can be increased by division in spring.
Aubrieta [ Mediterranean/Asia Minor]
Thankful evergreen, low and spreading perennials, these are suitable for edging beds and for trailing in window boxes. They are easily grown from, most being varieties of A. deltoidea, and they are just as easily propagated by division in spring or autumn. The small flowers appear from March to June and again later if they are
trimmed right back after the spring. ‘Barker’s Double’ is purple-red, while ‘Dr Mules’ has violet-purple blooms. Plant in ordinary soil, ideally with some lime, and in sun.
(Double or English Daisy; Europe/Central America]
The double daisies, about 13cm/5in high, are basically ‘sports’ of the common lawn daisy (which incidentally is native only to Europe and Central America). The double daisies, usually offered as the B. p. ‘Monstrosa’ strain, are also perennial; they are very valuable as they flower practically all the year round in mild climates, are extremely easy to cater for and have long-lasting flowers. A miniature daisy with deep carmine, button-shaped flowers, ‘Red Buttons’, looks good in window boxes and small containers. All of the sorts available do not demand largenor much attention. Mixed doubles can sometimes be had in most shades of red and pink and in white. Double daisies should be planted in the autumn or in February and grown in sun or light shade for the main spring and summer display. Propagation is from seeds sown in May, but named varieties are better increased by division in early spring.
Cheiranthus [Wallflower; Europe]
Although hardy perennials, wallflowers are usually treated as biennials as they are short-lived. They get too leggy and sparse-flowering if kept over from one flowering to the next. They are excellent asplants, in mixed schemes with tulips and Forget-me-nots. is sown in May. The resulting are grown on in a nursery bed where they develop into sturdy plants for setting in their flowering positions in the autumn.
Varieties of C. cheiri (the cottage type) with the heavy scent come in blood-red, gold, orange, primrose-yellow, mahogany-brown and in mixed shades, such as the ‘Tom Thumb’ strain, and bloom from February to May. The taller varieties vary from 38-45cm/15-18in and dwarf types, suitable for window boxes, 23-30cm/9-12in. The hybrid Siberian Wallflower C. x allionii has bright orange or apricot flowers held on flatter heads during May. They are usually about 30cm/1 ft in height.
Young transplanted stock can sometimes be bought in the autumn for those who do not have the opportunity (or desire) to raise their own from. Keep plants well watered until they are well-established and avoid planting out in windy or frosty weather. After flowering, the plants should be pulled up and. destroyed before they seed.
Try not to use the same soil a second year because wallflowers exhaust whatever soil they are grown in. Any soil and full sun suit these plants.
Iberis [Candytuft; Southern Europe]
These small plants are excellent for town gardens as they do not mind pollution. /. sempervirens is a hardy evergreen perennial, best in the variety ‘Little Gem’ (10cm/4in), a mass of tiny white blooms in May. There is also a double-flowered form. Even in poor soil iberis will flourish, and best in sun; pick off the dead blooms to extend the flowering period. Propagation is byin summer.
Myosotis [Forget-me-not; Europe]
The hybrid Forget-me-nots are invaluable in the spring for there is hardly a truer blue flower and they are so accommodating that they will grow practically anywhere. They relish a certain amount of shade and moist soil. They are grown as biennial plants, but seed themselves freely throughout the summer. The varieties ‘Blue Ball’ (15cm/6in), ‘Royal Blue’ (20cm/8in) and the variant ‘White Ball’ are excellent types. Plant in good, preferably moist, soil and in 8 light shade.
Phlox [United States]
The perennial P. paniculata is not really suitable forgardening, but the dwarf species P. subulata (5-10cm/2-4in) grows well in paving and as edging. It has purple or pink flowers in April, and among many named varieties are the blue ‘Bonita’ and the pale pink ‘Apple Blossom’. Good soil and a sunny will suit these plants; they are best increased by cuttings in summer.
Polygonatum hybridum [Solomon’s Seal; Europe/North America/ Asia]
Polygonatum are perfect perennial plants for shady positions. They have thick creeping rhizomatous rootstocks from which arise 60cm/2ft long arching, bearing blue-green leaves and rather small but attractive bell-shaped greenish-white flowers. Solomon’s Seal is sometimes listed as P. tnultiflorum. There is a variegated form ‘Striatum’ which also manages to grow in shade where its paler flecking shows to advantage. Flowers are produced in the late spring and dark berries appear in the autumn. Polygonatums enjoy rich moist soil when they will make stately and elegant plants. Top growth should be cut down when it begins to fade in late autumn and the plants should be given a top-dressing of leafmould in spring. Propagation is by division of the spreading rhizomes in spring or autumn.
[ , Auricula, Polyanthus, Cowslip; Europe/Asia]
The primrose family is a very large one and includes many types of diverse shape, hardiness and flower arrangement. The early flowering perennial primrose of the woods, P. vulgaris, and the cowslip, P. veris, with its delicate pale-yellow flowers are both well known in the wild. Modern cultivars of both types are well worth growing in containers for the early spring display. The auriculas, which have been derived from P. auricula are beautiful plants (J5cm/6in) perfectly suited to the specialist who fancies the unusual in the way of colouring. The ‘Dusty Miller’ ranges have flowers in soft, often bizarre colours, usually beautifully muted shades of purple, yellow, mahogany and greenish-yellow. A number have soft green foliage covered with or at least margined by a mealy white powder or farina. Dozens of named and un-named hybrids are available which give year-round interest with their foliage appeal and unusually coloured spring flowers. The fleshy rootstocks of these plants are inclined to ride out of the soil, and for really good plants full of bloom they should have rich soil shaken over their exposedor should be lifted every two or so years, divided and be set deeper down.
P. denticulata is the Himalayan drumstick primula with dense circular heads ofor purple blooms held on 15-23cm/6-9in flower stalks above the neat foliage from March to May. ‘Alba’ is a white form and ‘Ruby’ is deep-purple. P. japonica is usually known as the candelabra primula and has 45cm/18in bearing whorls of white, pink, purple or crimson flowers during May and early June started indoors. The fabulous range of polyanthus is a cross between the primrose and the cowslip; they are available in shades of blue and purple, yellow, red, pink, apricot, white with yellow throats and the bicolours, usually in the Pacific strain.
All primulas enjoy some shade and a regularly moist soil; some will stand quite wet conditions but none will tolerate a really dry state for long. Good rich soil suits them best with plenty of leafmould worked in and some regular liquidduring the growing
Agapanthus [African Lily; South Africa]
Agapanthus are one of a few perennial plants which do better in largeand tubs than when planted directly in the garden. They are generally half-hardy and like cramped conditions and flower profusely when this is provided. They need top dressing annually and feeding when in active growth but once they are flowering well in large containers they should not be moved on. A rich soil with a high proportion of loam is recommended. Although usually classified as bulbous plants these South Africans do in fact have a short fleshy rootstock with thick fleshy . A. africanus has evergreen strap-shaped arching leaves and long flower scapes – perhaps to 60cm/2ft – and umbels of 20 to 30 deep violet blue flowers in August. They should ideally be given the protection of some frost-free shelter during the winter when they can be kept practically dry. A. campanu-latus (syn. A. moorcamts) is much hardier and has narrower leaves. They can scarcely be given too much water during the summer; in fact some municipal parks actually stand the tubs in ornamental pools so that the base just touches the water.
Some very much improved hybrids have been raised which are considerably hardier than anything seen before – they do, however, lose their leaves in winter. These are known as ‘Headbourne Hybrids’ and in Britain can be bought in shades of blue from indigo to very pale and in white. Sun suits them all best as one would expect of plants from South Africa.
Propagation is by division in spring or from seed – the latter a rather slow business.
Alchemilla mollis [Lady’s Mantle; Asia Minor]
The leaves of this hardy perennial are perfectly round, deeply incised and with the attractive addition of scalloped edges. They are also a pleasant soft green colour and much sought after by flower-arrangers. Clusters of tiny sulphur-green flowers are produced in June and July. They are perfect town plants (30-45cm/l-1 1/2 ft ), forming ground-covering clumps able to thrive in either sun or shade and in most soil mixes, preferably moist. Left alone the clumps will seed freely and extend the plantings or they can prove useful as gift plants. Crowded clumps can be divided in autumn or spring.
Althaea rosea [Hollyhock; Asia]
Hollyhocks are normally o grown as biennial or annual plants, the seed
being sown in June or July and thebeing well cared for until October or November when they may be planted in their permanent flowering positions. The species may grow up to 1.8m/6ft or even more, but some of the newer hybrids are less vigorous. A wide selection of colours can be had and some of the double-flowered strains are particularly attractive. ‘Summer Carnival’ and the Chater Doubles are recent outstanding strains with double flowers and some annual types with double flowers, such as ‘Double Triumph Mixed’ are valuable provided that seed can be raised early in the year. All hollyhocks need a good deep root-run and average soil, frequent , and it is advisable to stake the flower spikes as soon as they begin to appear.
Alyssum maritimum [Sweet Alyssum; Southern Europe]
A. maritimum, the low-growing (8-15cm/3-6in), sweetly-scented, carpet-bedding annual has been renamed Lobularia maritima but it is included here as an alyssum as it is so well known under its old name. Although so often associated with the blue lobelia it is a very valuable plant in its own right. ‘Little Dorrit’, white, ‘Pink’, ‘Tiny Tim’, ‘Carpet of Snow’ and ‘Violet Queen’ are a few very attractive hybrids which are commonly grown. The foliage is tiny and has a grey appearance. This alyssum is a very easy and undemanding plant that will flourish in virtually any soil or position, flowering practically nonstop over the whole summer and autumn. It is invaluable for tucking into small spaces where a touch of white is needed. can be scattered where required or tiny plants can be individually planted in April.
Antirrhinum [Snapdragons; Southern Europe]
We now have a whole range of new F.l hybrid snapdragons which are vigorous and rust resistant (this used to be a tiresome virulent disease). Colours and flower shapes have all been improved and extended so that there are now ruffled and double flowered sorts and individual colours can be raised from seed. Snapdragons are best treated as half-hardy annuals, raising (or buying in) new plants each year for planting outdoors in April. The dwarf forms are particularly valuable for window boxes and when space is restricted. Some cultivars have recently won medals in both British and American Trials. A mixture ‘Little Darling’, growing between 23-30cm/9-12in tall, is compact and has a wide colour range. The mixtures
‘Floral Carpet’ and ‘Magic Carpet’ are also miniature. These plants will not need staking. All need a good fertile soil, full sun and regular feeding during most of the summer months. Once the main flower spikes have faded they should be cut back to shoots lower down which will usually continue the show.
Few bedding plants can equal B. semperflorens (15-23cm/6-9in) for providing a continuous display. They are tender annual plants from which cuttings can be taken (if this is done those from low down on the plant should be used as these produce bushy plants) but they really are best when grown from seed. The seed is as fine as snuff and when sown should be sprinkled on the surface of well-sieved soil and not covered. It can be mixed with fine sand to help get an even distribution. Pans of sown seed should be covered with a sheet of glass or with a plastic lid and left undisturbed to germinate. Ais an
advantage, although they may, with luck, be raised on a sunny window ledge. Many different strains are available, with white, pink or red flowers and some with bronze foliage. Old plants can be cut hard back in the autumn when they will shoot afresh provided that there is a frost free greenhouse available in which to overwinter them. B. semperflorens are particularly valuable in window boxes, hanging baskets and for spots which receive quite a lot of sun. The name means ‘always flowering’ and this they certainly do.
B. hybrida Pendula is the botanical name for a strain of pendulous. They make ideal plants for hanging baskets when their large double flowers and foliage are seen to best advantage. They are tender tuberous plants, both named and unnamed varieties, but in distinct colours of yellows, pinks and reds. They should be planted in peat early in the year
to induce them to make some root growth. They should be potted on and kept in good light under cover until all fear of frost is past. Harden off before setting outdoors in early June and take indoors before the first frost.
The Multiflora begonias are also tuberous rooted and form compact plants with a bushy habit. They are the nearest thing to B. semper-floretts for continuous flowers, but the individual blooms are double or semi-double and sometimes quite rosebud-like in form. Named varieties are available.
The huge double-flowered begonias B. x tuberhybrida can be magnificent. The tender tubers for bedding or outdoor pot plants are available from specialist growers and garden stores in both unnamed and named varieties, colours ranging from white to yellow and red, many with frilled petals. Both these and the multifloras should be rooted in trays of peat in February and March and treated like the Pen-dulas. Care should be taken to see that the tubers are planted the right way up – the concave side is usually the top. In the initial stages of growth care should be taken when watering to see that no water lodges in the depression at the top of the tuber as this can cause rot. The pendular sorts should not be staked – they should be allowed to sprawl -but the tuberous doubles will need small stakes and regular tying in.
All begonias will take some shade but most prefer to have a few hours of sunshine, the tuberous sorts standing shade the best. The semperflorens will enjoy sun and not object unduly if the soil begins .to dry out a little. The others should be kept moist at all times. The tubers should be lifted in the autumn before they are caught by the frost. Their top growth should be allowed to dry off naturally and when this has fallen they should be stored (preferably in rather dry peat) until the next spring when they can be started into growth again.
Calendula officinalis [Pot Marigold; Southern Europe]
This hardy annual has given rise to many beautiful hybrids (60cm/2ft) quite unlike the rather weedy single-
flowered sorts that used to plague cottage gar dens. The plants, with daisy-like flowers, will
flower most of the year from successive ings in the open and will be content with only
light soil and little attention. Sun really helps to produce short sturdy plants, as does pinch
ing out of the top shoot, but they will grow in some shade. The lovely double-flowered hybrid ‘Geisha Girl’, which is pure orange with incurved petals like a show ,
‘Orange King’ and ‘Lemon Queen’ are just a selection. Give them plenty of room to develop allowing at least 30cm/1 ft between plants and at least every two weeks.
Campanula [Bellflower; Europe/Asia Minor J Campanulas in nature are very widely distributed and about 300 species and hybrids of annuals and perennials are known. Some, like C. isophylla from Northern Italy, are suitable for hanging baskets and for trailing over the edges of containers. The predominant flower colour is blue although there are a number of lovely whites and both tend to show up to advantage in town gardens. C. isophytta, a dwarf perennial, is-blue, but it has two varieties, ‘Alba’ (white) and ‘Mayii’ (mauve, with furry grey foliage). It is perhaps best considered as not quite hardy and one that should have cuttings taken from it in autumn to be overwintered indoors or in a
greenhouse. A hanging basket of one sort or of the two colours planted together can look splendid in July/August when they begin flowering. They look good in window boxes too.
C. cochlearijblia is the common campanula of the Alps and is a tough little perennial with harebell-like flowers, sometimes called Fairies’ Thimbles, forming dense mats oi fine foliage, wiry stems and pale blue flowers. Named varieties are available including ‘Miss Will-mott’ and a white form ‘Alba’. C. poscharsky-ana is a strong perennial grower (30cm/1 ft ) from Dalmatia with lavender-blue flowers. C. pyraniidalis, the, is upright growing and superb for use in pots. It grows easily from seed but needs care and shelter from winds as it can top 1.5m/5ft in height under very favourable conditions. It is best treated as i a biennial. There are blue and white forms. All
campanulas will be happy either in sun or shade and prefer a rich soil mixture incorporating some leafmould. A regular feeding programme will ensure a continuous display.
frutescens [Paris Daisy or Marguerite; Canary Islands]
The Paris Daisy or Marguerite is not a completely hardy perennial, but is grown all over the Mediterranean, parts of America and Australasia and deserves to be grown much more extensively. This is the single white daisy with the golden eye that is sold in pots in bud or full bloom in the spring and as cut flowers. It continues flowering all the way through the summer and when it finishes can be cut back to bloom again in the autumn. C. frutescens
does not need a great deal of heat but it must be overwintered under cover. Cuttings root easily in peat and sand in August/September and can be made bushy bythe growing points to build up the required shape or trained like a fuchsia into a standard. They flower profusely in pots and tubs, need regular watering and feeding and like all daisies love sun. ‘Etoile d’Or’ is a lemon-coloured form.
Clarkia [North America]
Clarkias come in a very wide colour range with tall flower spikes and are extremely. Most of the double-flowered hybrids now available have been developed from one of the original species, C. elegans. These half-hardy annuals do not transplant very well and are best sown where they are to flower, thinning out the seedlings to around 23cm/9in apart. Some thin twigs for
support are necessary as clarkias are very inclined to snap off at soil level in any degree of wind. Most hybrids reach about 45cm/18in high and some of the salmon-coloured sorts like ‘Salmon Bouquet’ are particularly beautiful. Other shades include white, lavender, purple, scarlet and orange. Average soil and anyother than heavy shade suit them.
blumei [ ; Java]
These perennials, usually grown as annuals, are popular houseplants and also used in outdoor bedding schemes. The new hybrid coleus offer a great wealth ofcolour and should be included in as many plantings as possible. They are tender and should not be attempted out of doors until all danger of frost is past. May is a good month for planting and most will still be attractive in October. The flowers are insignificant and should be pinched out; this also helps to make the plants bushy. Tiny are usually offered for sale early in the year, already showing their colouring, and a selection can prove quite a feature. Sun or shade is suitable to them although leaf colouring will normally be stronger in sun. They must not be allowed to dry out completely as this causes collapse and while they recover, some of the lower leaves are usually shed when this happens. Good rich soil and a weekly feed will produce splendid plants up to 45cm/l5ft. Treat as an-
Impatiens [, Patient Lucy or Patience Plant; East Africa]
Impatiens gained its name from the impatient way that it expels its seeds – they fly out as if fired from a gun. The genus includes hardy, half-hardy and tender species which are popular houseplants. The hardier types are also much used for summer bedding and containers and are grown as annuals. The tall-growing /. sultanii is now out of favour and has been superseded by the many attractive F.l hybrids which are dwarf (23cm/9in high) and spreading in habit and have large flat flowers. The colour range has also been extended from white, through the soft pastel shades and fluorescent reds and oranges, to wine colours and there are even those with striped petals. Double-flowered cultivars are available but these do not stand up as well to outdoor conditions. Some of the best seed mixtures are ‘Elfin’ for really dwarf (15cm/6in) or ‘Imp’ or ‘Treasure’ for slightly taller-growing sorts. Single colour strains can be obtained, but as cuttings root so easily in water or under close conditions in soil, this seems pointless unless large quantities are needed. Seed should be sown early in the year with bottom heat and the resulting seedlings pricked out into boxes and possibly later moved on into individual pots. They should not be planted out of doors until all danger of frost is past – possibly June in the north. They will flower continuously until the first autumn frost. When only two or three plants are needed they can usually be bought as small plants in May or June. Either sun or shade suits them but they should be kept well watered. Because of their rather sappy nature they do not overwinter well in anything but really quite warm conditions and are really best discarded after flowering in autumn.
Kochia scoparia tricophylla [Summer Cypress or Burning Bush; Southern Europe/Asia/Australia]
This splendid rapidly-growing half-hardy annual can be used much like the permanent conifer to provide a dumpy or pyramid shape of finely-cut feathery foliage. This kochia additionally has a change of colour during the autumn from light green to deep purplish-red.can be sown directly into the container in May or small plants may be planted out when available. The flowers are quite inconspicuous and appear in the axils of the leaves. Well-tended plants in light soil and full sun will eventually grow to 60-90cm/2-3ft high; the variety ‘Childsii’ is more globular.
Linum [Flax; Europe/North Africa]
Two hardy annual flax are commonly grown: L. usitatissi-4 mutii of wide distribution and cultivated for
centuries as a source of fibre for cloth making. It has beautiful clear blue saucer-shaped flowers and finely divided foliage. The other is the smaller (30cm/1 ft ) scarlet flax from North Africa, L. grandiflorutii, at its best in the brilliant red form, ‘Rutrum’. Both are easily grown from seed sown in March and April where they are to flower. Seed can be scattered on the surface of the soil, lightly raked in and the spot marked with a sprinkling of sand. Successive sowings from March to June will provide a long display well into the autumn months. Flowers will appear from the firstaround mid-June. Do not overfeed as they flower best when searching for food. Some sun is appreciated.
Lobelia [South Africa/Eastern United States/Mexico]
A large genus of hardy and half-hardy annuals and perennials, usually grown as annuals, in hanging baskets, window boxes and for edging. L. eritius is the lovely blue dwarf lobelia (10-15cm/4-6in) much beloved in bedding schemes, often mixed with white alyssum. It is a low-growing half-hardy perennial which is treated as an annual and planted out around May in hanging baskets and other containers. Some kinds (the Pendula varieties) trail several cm while others are quite squat and dumpy. Varieties include white forms, the ‘Cambridge Blue’ group and ‘Crystal Palace’ (dark blue, some with white eyes); there are also varieties with carmine red colours. Small plants should be used in containers wherever possible as they take up very little space and are not greedy. In shade they tend to get a little looser in form than when grown in bright sun. Average soil, kept moist, suits this plant. Seed is very small and should be sown in February in heat. Trays of healthy young plants are always freely-available from late April onwards.
L. cardinalis is a red-leaved upright lobelia (30-90cm/l-3ft), totally different from L. erinus. Its correct name is L. julgens. It has dark crimson foliage, arranged in a low-growing rosette, and a tall flower spike capped by brilliant scarlet flowers. It is hardy if some form of protective covering can be placed over the crowns during the worst winter months, but is not completely reliable. Should a cold frame be available it may be advisable to lift a few crowns and overwinter them there. This lobelia is at its best in rich moist soil and is sometimes grown by the water’s edge. There is a particularly fine cultivar ‘Queen Victoria’ with deep red flowers. Propagate by division of the rosettes in spring.
Lysimachia nummularia [Creeping Jenny; Europe]
The Creeping Jenny is a hardy perennial that is very useful as ground cover in shaded and rather impoverished soil. It has bright yellow flowers set among the green leaves. With rich fare it romps madly away and become an embarrassment. The golden form ‘Aurea’, however, is much more acceptable and the long trailing stems with yellow leaves will do very well in even the poorest conditions. Bright golden-yellow flowers go very well with the yellowy-green foliage and are produced most of the summer. Plants are sometimes seen growing from the tops of upturned drain-pipes when their growth trails down the pipe in an attractive way; they also trail nicely over the edges of window boxes. Keep the plants on the dry side and never feed them to prevent unwanted spread. Cuttings root easily in spring and summer and the runners take root wherever they touch the soil.
followed by a long flowerless period. Plants that have bloomed should be cut hard back and from the old stumps cuttings can be taken in August to provide new plants to be brought into a greenhouse for the winter.
The zonal pelargoniums P. x hortorum have a dark green zonal patch on their leaves and form the biggest group. Flower colour ranges from white to deep red and there are many variations in flower shape and scale. Some of the old varieties are still worth growing but many new ones appear each year and all have a long flowering season. ‘Gustave Emich’, large semi-double scarlet, ‘Rycroft White’, double, ‘Paul Crampel’, single scarlet, and ‘King of Denmark’, salmon coloured semi-double, have been favourites but are facing serious competition from the new, seed-grown Carefree strain.
The ivy-leaved varieties P. peltatum and hybrids are invaluable for use in hanging baskets and window boxes. They help to break up hard lines in containers. Mauve, pale and rich pink are the predominant colours but ‘L’Ele-gante’, bearing white flowers with dark eyes,
[ ; Mediterranean]
is a hardy annual easily grown from seed scattered between other plants in positions where it can be left undisturbed. This can be done in September and in mild areas it will grow through the winter and flower that much earlier the following year or in March or April for flowering in July and August. Overall height is about 30cm/1 ft . The foliage of this plant is bright green and feathery and the flowers are sky blue surrounded by feathery spurs. The flower is set in a ‘mist’ of pale green. The variety ‘Miss Jekyll’ is a semi-double strong cornflower blue and there is also a white form. Nigella will not survive a second year but it does self-seed and odd seedlings will appear the following year. They really look best when growing in of, say, 10 to 20 plants in good soil and full sun.
Pelargoniums [Geraniums; South Africa]
Geraniums, or as they are correctly called, pelargoniums, fall -not too neatly – into several. These are the regals, zonals, ivy-leaved, miniatures, variegated and scented-leaved, all of which are tender and half- , much used for summer bedding. Over the years the original species have been interbred, and quite a
number of the most popular varieties could not be said to be thoroughbred, but most do fall roughly into one category or another. The Regal pelargoniums P. x domesticum are shrubby plants with large floppy flowers most of which are blotched with a stronger colour. They range in colour from white with a deep purple eye to deepest burgundy, but the majority of the plants fall in the rich salmon to bright red shades. Regals have a much shorter flowering season than all the others. Flowering is early in the year around April and May indoors or in gentle climates. Their use outdoors is in a way more limited than the rest as they can only be used as temporary plants providing a strong splash of colour for a month or two
additionally has cream-edged leaves which take on a very attractive purple edging in sunny and rather dry conditions, particularly in the autumn. ‘La France’, double lilac with maroon markings, ‘Galilee’, rose-pink, ‘Abel Carrier’, double purplish magenta, and ‘Mauve Galilee’ are some good choices.
The scented-leaved pelargoniums are more often grown as houseplants but they make particularly attractive plants for sunfacing window boxes especially if the small-growing ones like P. jragrans, known as the nutmeg-scented geranium, and its variegated form are chosen. P. crispum ‘Variegatum’ is a beautiful foliage plant even without its lemon scent and quilted leaves and should be in every garden. The flowers of all the scented-leaved sorts are insignificant. The taller growers, up to 90cm/ 3ft, are excellent for balconies, flights of steps and the fronts of mixed plantings. In these positions they are often brushed against and emit a pleasant scent. The miniatures come into their own in window boxes, and varieties such as the single red ‘Black Vesuvius’ with black-purple foliage (there is also a salmon form), ‘Goblin’, a deep red double, and ‘Fries-dorf with ‘butterfly’ flowers are winners.
The ornamental and variegated-leaved sorts are fun. ‘Bronze Queen’, gold with a chestnut zone, ‘Happy Thought’, soft green with central yellow markings, ‘Mrs Henry Cox’, a super red and gold tricolour and ‘Filigree’, a small busy plant with a spreading habit and lobed silvery-green leaves zoned pink and brown, are but four.
All pelargoniums, despite suggestions to the contrary, do grow in a reasonably rich moist soil containing a high proportion of loam, with occasional feeding. Starved plants will flower more freely but not with the same good-sized blooms: it really is a case of striking a reasonable balance. Set out the plants, in full sun, after frost is over, in May. Tip cuttings of all pelargoniums will root easily in a mixture of peat and sand in August/September but must be overwintered under cover.
Petunia hybrida [garden origin]
These half-hardy annuals are probably the gayest and most enduring of all the plants used in summer bedding. Over the past few years great steps have been taken in their development and double-flowered, frilled-edged, striped and picotee varieties are freely available. Seed can be sown early in the year, or small plants purchased for planting out in late May. They can be used in hanging baskets, tubs and window boxes and the lovely large trumpet-shaped flowers stand up well to bad weather; with dead-heading they flower right through to autumn frost. Baskets filled with large pure white ‘White Swan’ or other single colour plantings are some of the most effective. The striped varieties are also striking. All colours are very gay and sometimes nothing succeeds more than a generous planting of mixed sorts. The Pendula varieties are trailing and ideal for baskets. A few twiggy sticks may be needed to support some of the taller types (23-30cm/9-12in), but in sheltered positions this is unnecessary. Petunias need copious watering, regular feeding during the whole flowering season and a sunny position. Ordinary soil will do as too rich a soil mix and shade produce more leaf than flower growth.
Sempervivum [Houseleek; Mountainous regions of Europe]
Evergreen succulents, mainly hardy, these grow from tight leaf rosettes. Houseleeks are so called because they are often found growing on the roof tiles of houses. They are a large family and have members ranging from the minute to 8cm/3in high specimens. All have two things in common: a flat rosette shape and after flowering that" particular rosette dies. Sempervivums look good in shallow clay pans, in window boxes with a sunny aspect and in troughs and sink gardens. S. arachnoideuru (the cobweb houseleek) is most attractive with fine white webbing spread all over the low rosette of green leaves sometimes flushed with red. Many original species, gathered from far and wide, are available and dozens of named hybrids have been produced. Some of the wine-coloured varieties are especially attractive. Flowers are small, red, star-shaped and borne on an 8cm/3in. They are shallow-rooting and grow in any ordinary soil in lots of sun. Propagation is by offsets, detached and replanted in spring or autumn.
Tagetes [Marigold; Mexico]
This genus is distinct from Calendula, and is usually divided into the African (or American) Marigolds (T. erecta), with large-flowered fully double orange and lemon-yellow blooms, and T. patula, the French Marigolds with smaller single or double flowers and smaller stature. The divided foliage of all tagetes has a distinctive and, to some, unpleasant scent. Both can be raised from seed sown in heat early in the year or small plants can be bought quite cheaply in boxes in May. Recommended African marigolds include ‘Oranges and Lemons’, the dwarf’First Lady’ with clear yellow flowers (an All-America seed trials winner in 1968) and ‘Toreador’ with large carnation-like blooms. Of the French Marigolds, ‘Bonita’ and ‘Butterscotch’ (two bronze doubles) arid ‘Lemon Gem’ and ‘Paprika’ (singles) should be tried. The flowering season of most of the tagetes extends from midsummer to frost. Although they will suffer some shade they produce their best blooms in full sun. Rich soil will encourage large flowers and a continuous display.
Autumn flowering plants
hupehensis [Japanese ; China/JapanJ The Japanese are fibrous-rooted perennials growing 60-90cm/2-3ft high with three-lobed leaves of a medium-green and delicate 5cm/ 2in rounded flowers. The most sought after types are the hybrid species and varieties with pure white flowers (‘Alba’), A. xelegans, pale pink, and A. japonica, purple. There are some with double flowers and others with crinkled leaves. All grow very well in some shade and most stand up very well to wind and rain. Plants seed freely and can pop up in all sorts of places including cracks in concrete. One of the nicest things about this is that it flowers during September and October at a time when little else is in bloom. Old clumps can be divided in the autumn after flowering. Rich, leafy and moist loam suits them best.
used to be plants of the autumn and the early winter months, but now they are available throughout the year thanks to dwarfing aids and the use of light control methods. When not in flower they really are very uninspiring and this non-flowering state lasts for about 10 months of the year. The annual species, such as C. cari-natum and its numerous named varieties with single flowers in a wide range of colours, and C. coronarium, with single or double flowers from white to yellow, are recommended for pot culture. Because the dwarfed plants look so good and are fairly inexpensive it is suggested that the shallow pans of chrysanthemums sold in bud should be purchased and regarded much like a bunch of cut flowers: looked at, enjoyed, but discarded when past their best. They can be left in their pots, taken out of them and planted in containers, or the shallow pans in which they are bought can be sunk in a mixed container and be replaced by other pots when the first ones are past their prime. Whichever way is employed the soil the plants are in should be kept thoroughly moist. This use of as temporary container plants might seem an easy way out, but it is very sensible and does give colour
and interest for a reasonable period because the budded plants last quite a long while if kept out of sunshine and in a cool position. The Charm and Pompon varieties are beautiful and may be grown from rooted cuttings taken early in the spring. Such cuttings will need regular attention throughout the summer, feeding, staking and shaping, but will eventually produce lovely sprays of bloom.
Cosmos bipinnatus [Mexico]
The half-hardy annual cosmos with finely divided leaves and gay dahlia-like flowers of rose, white, yellow and orange shades are perfect flowers for the late summer and very early autumn. Seed can be sown where it is to flower, thinning out seedlings to 23-30cm/9-12in apart. Seed sown in mid- to late-May will flower in September. Sown in the autumn they will bloom earlier. They like a sunny, hot position but will grow in some shade and should be kept well watered. Any type of light soil suits them, but once they have begun flowering some regular liquid feeding will keep them going late into the autumn. Young plants are regularly offered for sale.
Reseda [Mignonette; North Africa]
The hardy annual, R. odorata is a good pot plant for autumn flowering. The loose flower heads, yellow-white and orange, continue well into October, and there are several named forms with red and bronze flowers. Resedas grow best in rich, alkaline soil and in full sun, from seeds sown under glass in early spring or in flowering positions in April.
The hardy perennial, S. spectabile has pale green, very succulent, spoon-shaped leaves and flat pink flower heads produced during early autumn. These, on 45cm/ 18in stems, attract butterflies in large numbers and they will be found ‘grazing’ on the heads whenever the sun shines. As the flower stems die down towards the end of November they should be snapped off. New shoots emerge to take their place just above ground level early in the year. S. telephium has darker coloured flowers (almost a purple-red); 5. maximum ‘Atropurpureum’ has dark purple flower stems and leaves and pink flowers and ‘Autumn Joy’ is a robust grower with deep pink flowers deepening to bronze. All sedums enjoy sun and a moist rich loamy soil and will happily produce magnificent foliage and fine flower heads in such a situation. Propagation is by division of the clumps.
Tropaeolum majus [Nasturtium; South America]
The annual nasturtiums are very valuable for autumn when their orange, flame red and yellow flowers seem most appropriate. If seed is sown out of doors in May in full sun and in poor, rather sandy soil (over-rich soil produces too much leaf growth), they will flower from late summer to frost. Both climbing and trailing varieties are available. Some of the dwarf types like the Tom Thumb strain (25cm/10in) are useful in window boxes and hanging baskets and the climbers can be trained up sticks and trellises or be allowed to scramble through evergreen shrubs. Pick off spent flowers to encourage continuous blooming.
Winter flowering plants
Bergenia [Central Asia]
The hardy perennial bergenias have handsome glossy, leathery leaves, which often change to shades of red and purple just as winter starts, when colour is most sought after. The blooms of most sorts begin to open from February to April or May according to climate and comprise dense clusters of flowers in many pink shades. B. cordifolia has broad glabrous leaves 15-30cm/6-12in in diameter and rose-pink flowers. A variety B. c. purpurea has crinkled edges to the leaves and turns almost purple in the winter months. B. crassifolia has smaller almost spoon-shaped leaves, and takes on orange to mahogany-red shades in winter. No bergenia likes an open draughty position, all thrive much better when in a sheltered site with a moist rootrun and some shade. When left to develop into large clumps they become very handsome and acquire an architectural quality which fits in very well with most town gardens. Propagation is by division of the clumps.
Euphorbia[Spurge; Europe/Asia Minor]
This large family includes tall-growing plants with rather woody stems, which are best described as sub-shrubs, and smaller-growing hardy herbaceous perennials. The glaucous-green foliage of some of them is much sought after and the flowers are certainly different. Actually the real flowers are practically invisible and it is the unorthodox
bracts that surround them that are so showy. E. wulfenii from Dalmatia is a tall-growing perennial evergreen sub-shrub (1.2m/4ft) with linear leaves and, through the late winter to early spring, sulphur-yellow flowers. E. myrsinites is a small trailer with yellow flowers for use in window boxes and similar positions where it can be viewed in close-up. There are many varieties from which to choose, some with brilliant orange colours. E. robbiac has rounded evergreen foliage which grows in whorls up the stems and green flowers and bracts. Flower buds are produced in December but the open bracts stay on the plants for months on end. The latter will put up with practically any position and prove interesting all the year round. It is, however, a bit of a marauder and will send its slender rhizomes in any direction that suggests a vacant space. Increase by seed, division or by taking cuttings immediately after flowering.
Helleborus [or Lenten ; Europe/Asia Minor]
The hardy perennial hellebores are particularly valuable because they are at their best when little else is about. H. niger (30cm/ 1 ft ) (Christmas) is not by any means the easiest one of the family to grow. The epithet ‘black’ (niger) refers to the roots for the flowers are white with prominent golden stamens. Care should be taken when purchasing new plants, as any that are dried out seldom recover. A good plant from a good nurseryman is recommended. H. corsicus (syn. H. argutifolius) is a taller-growing (60cm/2ft), much more shrubby plant. It has a mass of beautifully architectural leaves and pale lime-green flowers from February to May. They stay on the plant and are very decorative even when past their best. H. orientalis (45cm/18in) is the Lenten Rose and flowers from February onwards. These can be cream, pink or mauve, all spotted with a contrasting colour. All hellebores enjoy a deep moist soil and shade ranging from light to deep. They also like to be left undisturbed. Beware of slugs and snails and put bait down for them. Propagate by division, but only when absolutely essential.
[ ; Brazil]
Solanums are usually grown as pot plants and offered for sale around Christmas time for use in the home. Although not hardy they are of great value as temporary occupants of winter window boxes where the weather is mild enough. When bought in pots they are usually showing green berries which slowly ripen and remain decorative for about two months. Seed can be sown in early spring in a greenhouse. Young plants in pots can be brought out of doors for the summer when they will flower (quite, insignificant white blooms) and be pollinated. They should be kept well watered for their whole life cycle. Berries will start to plump up in September and to take on colour in late October and November.