given our climate, pick bedding plants with care

For once we have been bathed in lovely, warm sunshine recently. Day after day the sun shone, prompting everything into growth, that is, if you remembered to water.

Sunday, 1st June 2014, 3:13 pm
EVERBLOOMING: The Begonia "Semperflorens", the bedding Begonia, continue to bloom in all weather. (S)

As any housewife, sorry, as any member of the household responsible for domestic fabric and laundry cleansing and maintenance services will tell you, the combination of warm sunshine and a steady breeze dries out clothes in no time. They have been good drying days ideal for pegging out ... clothes that is.

It is much the same in the garden. In conditions like that, paths dry out in no time at all. Lawns and soil surfaces quickly dry out, too. So, too, do newly-planted bedding plants and hanging baskets. With the warm sunshine, plants put on a spurt of growth, but may falter if they dry out. Keep them well watered on the other hand, and their growth rate will be tremendous.

While they are growing so fast, giving young bedding plants a feed is also an excellent idea, helping them maintain a rich, green leaf colour, encouraging roots and prompting the formation of flower buds, which after all, is the whole point of the exercise.

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There are many products available, but personally I use Phostrogen soluble plant food on all young, ornamental plants and vegetables every week, but make sure the compost or soil is slightly damp, not dry, before using it.

You may think, “Why bother?” after all it rained last night. Judging off the current forecast, there is some rain about but it is an act of folly to depend on it and even when it has rained, compost in containers may still be dry because either the rain was not sufficient or the plant foliage creates a “rain shadow”, the leaves acting in the manner of an umbrella, shedding raindrops away from the container, often leaving the compost bone dry.

The other factor is the vagaries of the forecasts themselves. I often wonder if after all the millions invested in meteorological research it would be better just to look out of the window. Even then you can only be sure of rain after the event.

Cows may lie down when it is about to rain, or you may even see pigeons fly backwards, but you can only be sure of rain after the event.

Bearing the fickle nature of our weather systems in mind, you can do yourself a favour by picking bedding plants that perform regardless of the weather.

Most garden varieties are tried and tested and for years gardeners relied on Impatiens (Busy Lizzies), but sadly they have succumbed to mildew in recent years. Far better nowadays are the begonia family.

Begonia “Semperflorens” is the bedding Begonia. Literally always flowering, producing flowers in shades of pink, red and white, utterly reliable in sun or shade, in dry weather or wet, they should be an essential part of any summer display.

Their big brothers, the Non-stop Begonias, are equally adaptable. They have a much larger leaf and produce large, rose-like flowers in pink, red and white, but also yellow, apricot and orange varieties are available, all pretty much guaranteed to flower all summer whatever the weather.

But they still need watering and feeding. Do that and they will reward you with colour week after week.